Construction on the $6.9 million renovation of Epworth Towers, 2800 Augusta Lane, is nearing the halfway mark.

Work started July 15, 2019, and should be done by the end of this year, said Debra Staab, who manages Epworth Towers and its neighbor Hays Plaza Apartments.

“We’re not quite half way, but (we’re) starting to see how nice it’s going to be, and how worth it, it is.”

The building, which opened January 1981, has 90 apartments including two two-bedroom and 88 one bedroom units.

“Every apartment will be brand new. We’ve expanded the kitchen, all new carpet, new LVT (luxury vinyl tile) flooring in the kitchen, new cabinets. They gutted these things to the studs,” Staab said.

The kitchens, which will have new black appliances, include additional cabinet and counter space made possible by cutting down an entry closet.

The LVT extends to the front door making the area which was carpeted, easier to keep clean. Low cut carpet in the living room and bedroom is glued down to make it easy for residents who use walkers.

The one item that remains in most apartments is the bathtub.

“We really wanted walk-in showers, but they were in still such good condition that they couldn’t feasibly just tear them out and get rid of them. We do have some that we cut out on the side,” Staab said of the bathtubs.

Handicap apartments with roll-in showers also are available.

The renovation also includes new windows, elevators and LED lighting in apartments and hallways.

“I just love the LED lighting. It’s been dark and dingy so long,” she said.

The failing HVAC system is being replaced.

“It had a boiler system, and it was on its last legs.”

Before the renovation “we controlled whether the heat or air conditioning was on. Now they control that along with the temperature in the apartment,” Staab said.

The renovation process started with cracked sewer pipes made of cast iron.

“We knew we had to do something about the pipes, well our windows were getting bad, and just pricing redoing the sewer was outrageous,” Staab said.

She had learned about applying for tax credits for renovations at conferences, and after some research, the board decided to apply.

Planning took two and a half years, and a lot of paperwork.

Investment Resources Corporation, Wichita, “helped us fill out the housing tax credit application,” Staab said. “We were lucky enough to be awarded it on the first try. We received $6.9 million for the renovation.”

IRC is a real estate development, investment and holding company specializing in multi-family market rate and affordable housing, according to its website.

When the renovation work started, it became clear that the sewer pipes under the building also were bad, and replacing them was not in the plan, Staab said.

“So M&D (Excavating) is actually boring new pipes under the building. They x-rayed the building to see where they can go through.”

Other changes include an updated community room, a larger front office and expanding the parking lot.

Everything is new but the roof, and it’s only six years old, she said.

A security system with cameras will be installed at all exits, and residents likely will have badges to enter the building.

“We don’t have a crime issue, but it’s just nice to have sometimes,” Staab said.

The facility stopped renting apartments in October 2018 to make units available to move residents into while their apartments are being renovated.

“That’s why we have 36 vacant apartments today - through attrition and not renting.”

Work is being done in four phases, and each corner of the building starting with the southeast, from top to bottom, represents a phase.

A Hays company, Pro Movers, packs, moves and unpacks each tenant’s goods into a temporary apartment. When their apartment is finished, the process begins again. Residents can pack and unpack their own belongings if they wish, but there is no cost to the resident.

Before the renovation began, the building accepted those who were 62 years and older or disabled.

When the building begins renting again, the criteria will be 55 and older. However, the eleven disabled residents will be grandfathered in, and allowed to stay.

The building has had a good occupancy rate.

“There is a need to get this open and going,” Staab said.