GREENSBURG, KAN.—This town disappeared on May 4, 2007, when a tornado blew through the streets, knocking down just about every wall and killing 11.
The community was demolished by the twister’s 200 mph winds, leaving some to wonder if the final curtain had fallen on Greensburg. Amid the tornado’s ruins, others saw an opportunity for a fresh start and began pushing the idea of turning Greensburg into a green town, a model for the future. The efforts have been documented in Greensburg, a series for the Discovery network.
A big step in the town’s green revolution is the building of Prairie Pointe Townhomes, a 16-unit affordable housing development that recently earned a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
It is the first LEED platinum project of its kind in Kansas and only the third low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) complex in the nation to receive the honor, according to the Kansas Housing Resources Corp. (KHRC), which helped to finance the project.
Looking at the new buildings, one wouldn’t guess that it is a platinum-certified project, said developer Jay Manske of Manske & Associates in Wichita, noting that there are no solar energy panels or any other obvious signs of fancy green technology.
However, the $2.5 million project is extremely efficient. It features low-flow showerheads and faucets that reduce water usage on average by 20 percent, walls with blown-in cellulose insulation, high energy-efficient air-source heat pumps, and Energy Star appliances. In addition, the developer used adhesives, sealants, paints, and carpets that have little or no volatile organic compounds, creating a healthier environment.
“It shows that a common, normal design building can be green,” said Fred Bentley, director of rental housing at KHRC. “It is a design that can be replicated and can be made affordable.”
If you build it, will they come?
Manske had to overcome several other challenges to complete Prairie Pointe, including determining the demand for affordable housing in the aftermath of the tornado. Residents had scattered, and it was unknown if they would ever return.
“There was a lot of uncertainty,” said Bentley. “People didn’t know what they were going to do. It was almost a chicken-or-egg thing. You’ve got to know what’s going to happen in the community before you can determine if you can stay there.”
To get a sense of the potential demand, a direct-mail campaign was launched. Letters were sent to the town’s residents, asking them if they planned to come back. If so, did they plan to rebuild or would they prefer to rent?
Although a number of letters came back because the post office did not have forwarding addresses, the team received enough response to show there was a need, said Manske. A neighboring project will provide market-rate apartments.
KHRC provided a $286,000 deferred loan and reserved LIHTCs to the development. The tax credits raised about $1.76 million in equity from the Kansas Equity Fund.
The Federal Home Loan Bank provided $112,000 from its Affordable Housing Program through member First National Bank of Hutchinson, which also provided a $170,000 loan.
Prairie Pointe was completed around July 2008, and it has been fully leased since the early fall to serve seniors and families earning no more than 60 percent of the area median income.
Greensburg has come home.