City updated on G&W grocery plans



June 9, 2015 - 12:00 AM

Iola City Council members were given their first official glimpse Monday of a proposal to build a grocery store and apartment complexes on the site of the old Allen County Hospital.
David Toland, who serves as an adjunct economic development director for the city and Allen County, spoke about G&W Foods’ intent to build a grocery store at the intersection of First and Madison streets.
“We know more than we did a week ago,” Toland said, “and it’s good news.”
County commissioners voted, 2-1 on June 2 to negotiate exclusively with G&W after a competing developer told the county he was dropping his proposal to use the hospital site as a care center for patients with Alzheimer’s disease as well as other health care services.
While the competing bid slowed the G&W proposal by about two months, Toland said company officials remain determined to open a store in Iola, with a “strong interest in moving this as quickly as possible.”
The only potential stumbling block is demolition costs.
The county plans to bear the cost of demolishing the old hospital, which is three stories at parts with reinforced concretee.
Projections are the demolition would cost around $500,000, but nothing will be known until bids are opened in July.
If all the chips fall into place, demolition would occur this fall, with new construction beginning next spring.

TOLAND spoke about the other proposed development, that of an apartment complex being built by Iola Industries.
There is room for two other housing complexes at the old hospital site — others could be an apartment building, and a series of townhouses — but no developers have been found for those projects.
“The first apartment complex would demonstrate there is a market” for new housing, Toland said. “I’m confident there’s a need; Iola Industries is confident there is. But we have to show it. We have to build it, and we have to fill it.”
From there, attracting new developers should be easier, he said.
Toland dispelled a rumor the Iola Industries apartments would be for low-income renters.
Because Iola Industries will finance construction through a bank, and not receive tax credits from the state, it can charge market rates for the apartments, Toland noted.

THE CITY will, obviously, play a role in the site’s development.
First of all, the hospital site would need to be rezoned in order for the grocery to open, Toland said.
Utility easements cross the property as well, “and I’m sure there would have to be some coordination with the city and county as far as demolition,” Toland said.
The plan is for the supermarket’s entryway to be along either First Street or Madison Avenue, and not along U.S. 54, Toland noted. Even so, traffic patterns will need to be studied to determine if the curved road must be altered.
There is talk about cutting the angle of the curve along one stretch, Toland said.
“It’s still a complicated traffic pattern,” he said. “We’re going to need a professional traffic engineer.”

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