City approves $300K loan for Commerce Building

It was an initial investment from the City of Pittsburg years ago that allowed Block22 to go from an idea to reality. And this week, the city again stepped up to ensure the long-term success of the project.

The Pittsburg City Commission on Tuesday approved a request from Pittsburg State University for a five-year, $300,000 forgivable loan from the city’s Revolving Loan Fund (RLF). The funds will go toward construction and infrastructure inside the first floor of the Commerce Building, the longtime home of Crowell Drug Pharmacy.

Shawn Naccarato, Chief Strategy Officer for Pittsburg State, said the loan from the city will help PSU secure multiple new businesses that will be located inside Block22.

“We are incredibly grateful to the City of Pittsburg, the City Commission, and the Economic Development Advisory Council for this particular loan and for everything they’ve done along the way to make Block22 possible,” Naccarato said. “The $300,000 forgivable loan will ensure that we can build out the Commerce Building space to meet the design and infrastructure needs of the future businesses that will be housed on the first floor.”

Naccarato said the university has signed Letters of Intent (LOI) with multiple businesses, but details of the agreements cannot yet be made public.

“Because of the nature and status of our negotiations, we cannot yet disclose which businesses will be located in the Commerce Building,” he said. “However, what I can say is that I think the community and region will be very pleased and excited by what we’re looking to put in there. And this would be not possible without the support of the city. This latest investment will pay major dividends for years to come.”

Pittsburg City Manager Daron Hall said the city is excited to support Block22.

“We’re very proud to support the Block22 project because we see how it will transform our downtown, our community and our region,” Hall said. “We couldn’t be more excited about the potential and possibilities for that space in the Commerce Building.” 

Hall said the loan is forgivable only if Pitt State hits certain economic development criteria, such as occupancy, tax revenue generation and employment numbers. 

“When we agreed to make this a forgivable loan, we did so with clear guidelines and stipulations,” Hall said. “We’re confident that Pitt State will meet all of those benchmarks.” 

Naccarato said that PSU needed to go to the city for this funding request because the original plans for Block22 did not include vacant space on the first floor of the Commerce Building.

“In the early stages of the project, Crowell’s was planning to remain in their space for at least five more years,” he said. “So we did not plan or budget for the buildout of that space. When Crowell’s decided to close up shop, we saw an opportunity to use that space to host potential new businesses, such as new restaurants. We also knew, however, that a major component of attracting new businesses would be making sure we could fund the buildout of that space.

“This loan from the city allows us to do that, which will help us seal the deal with the businesses that have expressed interest in that space.”

The Block22 project, which transforms four historic buildings at 4th and Broadway into a mix-use, living-learning community, is scheduled to open in August. Block22 is a being developed through a partnership between Pittsburg State, the City of Pittsburg, and The Vecino Group, a development company based in Springfield, Mo.