Westar Energy’s recently formed parent company, Evergy, donated a large sum of money totaling $100,000 to Block22, Pittsburg State’s newest residential complex.
The company formed when Westar Energy and Kansas City Power and Light merged last summer, and they have a history of donating to community and academic causes around the state of Kansas, including Evergy Plaza in Topeka.
“It’s something we feel is important as a merged company,” said Gina Penzig, media relations manager for Westar Energy. “We’re always trying to stay in touch with what’s happening in our communities, and if there are opportunities for public-private partnerships that make sense for us, we’re intrested in those.”
Westar Energy and Evergy have connections back to Pittsburg State as many Gorilla graduates go on to work for the company, and this is not their first large donation to a program run by Pittsburg State faculty and staff.
“Our community charitable giving and community involvement, we’ve done that to some degree with all the communities that we serve,” said Penzig.
Not far from the Block22 development, the Pittsburg City Council has begun talks about moving to a publicly-owned utility instead of the Westar Energy they currently operate on. However, Penzig said there was no connection between the two events.
“We are committed to Pittsburg. We want to keep providing great service to residents of Pittsburg. We really appreciate that the city leaders want to make sure they are doing the right thing for the residents of the city, and we’re happy to talk with them about all the benefits we feel that we bring.” said Penzig.
Penzig said that while the city’s inquiry into the prospect of a publicly-owned system of electricity is going on, they remain “committed to volunteerism and charitable giving in Pittsburg, like the other communities that we serve.”
With this donation, Block22 aims to continue developing both the residential areas and the businesses in the complex, according to Brett Dalton, director of strategic communications.
“Sometimes the donors have specific wishes as to where the money is going, sometimes it acts as a general donation,” said Dalton. “The funds from Evergy will go towards general advancement of the project. We have some ongoing construction and programming costs… As we continue to build the restaurants, we’re also going to have different types of educational programming, and community events downtown.”
Block22 opened completely to student residents later than originally planned and has only partially opened all the restaurants scheduled for Fall 2018. Dalton attributed this to the growth in ambition for Block22’s development.
“Back when this all started, and were scheduled for August 2018 for everything open, Block22 obviously looked a lot different than what it does today.” said Dalton, “The project, as it moved along and more and more things come up, has gotten bigger than we first planned. In the beginning, we were thinking maybe one restaurant. Well, now we have three… We were probably just a bit too optimistic on how quickly this would go.”
According to Dalton, the Block22 project’s development was organized into three distinct phases: the development of the residential areas, the introduction of Root Coffeehouse and the Foundry, and the third phase, planned to be completed by the end of this academic school year, being the entry of the remaining restaurants.