Council receptive to tower plan

Iola City Council members showed support for a couple's plans to convert an unused water tower into high-rise housing, but first they'll need to follow a bid process in accordance with the city's purchasing policy.

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June 28, 2022 - 2:46 PM

Corey Schinstock, assistant city administrator, looks over photos provided by Max Grundy, who wants to turn a former water tower into high-rise living quarters. Photo by Richard Luken / Iola Register

Iola City Council members showed support for Max Grundy’s proposal to convert the Elm Street water tower into an Airbnb, but he’ll have to bid in order to get the property.

Council members voted  Monday to solicit bids to sell the old water tower, which hasn’t been used for years.

Seeking bids keeps the Council in accordance with the city’s purchasing policy, Iola Mayor Steve French explained to Grundy. French’s comments came after Council members met privately with City Attorney Bob Johnson to discuss their options, and whether they could deal directly with Grundy or open the bidding for all.

Grundy is a professional artist who moved to Iola with his family from Los Angeles  in the summer of 2021.

“I love anything design-related,” Grundy said. “I  love this town, I love Iola. And we have this funky idea to turn the water tower into an airBNB. It’s a beautiful building. I’d hate to see it scrapped and turned to nothing.”

Grundy shared his vision for the structure, which he acknowledged he’s only been able to see from afar because it’s fenced off.

“If you look at it closely, it’s built like a Sherman tank,” Grundy told the Council, noting its rivets “are the size of my wrist,” with plenty of support brackets on its legs.

Grundy’s dream is to create a split-level living quarters in the tank, with the top level surrounded by windows in all directions, offering a 360-degree view of Iola from the sky.

A freight elevator would ferry occupants to the top of the structure.

His first steps would be to install the elevator and an enclosed stairway for safety, Grundy said.

Councilwoman Joelle Shallah asked about a scenario in which Grundy acquires the tower, only to find hidden issues that could derail his plans for a remodel.

“Then it would be like every other project I’ve done,” Grundy chuckled. “There are always surprises like that that drive you up the wall. You just have to find a workaround. We’re not afraid of workarounds. We’re used to it.”

Grundy’s portfolio includes helping redesign the SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) headquarters in Los Angeles, as well as rebuilding numerous cars through the years.

He would employ engineers and architects to ensure converting the tower into livable quarters would be done safely.

He projected a remodel would take about three years from start to finish.

Monday’s motion to seek bids for the tower passed, 7-0, with Councilman Nickolas Kinder absent.

“I’m excited to see it come true,” Councilwoman Kim Peterson said.

“It’s up to you now,” French told Grundy.

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