By CHRIS EVERSOLE
Rhonda Baker has missed mentoring young people since moving from the classroom to the state Capitol after being elected as a state representative in 2016.
Recently, the former teacher was able to encourage Denise Marzec, a young woman who wants to live in the historic Intrada El Reno, a historic hotel building that has been converted into apartments for people with low income.
“The Intrada serves as a steppingstone for people who need help,” Baker said while talking with Marzec in the kitchen of one of the apartments.
“It is a jewel for the community,” she said.
“God bless the Intrada. It’s a prime example of what other communities could do together.”
Baker, whose district includes El Reno and much of Yukon, participated in ribbon cutting for the Intrada’s new role.
State government was essential to the building’s transformation.
The Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency is providing tax credits of $650,000 a year for 10 years to support the project, located at 319 S. Grand Ave. in El Reno.
The Vecino Group, which bought and renovated the building, agreed to rent only to people with limited income as a condition for receiving the tax credits.
Six of the renters are young people between the ages of 18 and 30, who pay 30 percent of their income to rent, with the remainder being subsidized.
They include young men and young women who have aged out of the foster care system and otherwise would be homeless.
Youth & Family Services arranged for six apartments for the program, which includes a drop-in center for residents and youth in the community.
“Sometimes teens need to learn to have fun in a healthy way,” said John Schneider, executive director of Youth & Family Services.
Older residents and younger ones are socializing with other, said Reno Bohn, a manager for the management company, Wilhoit Properties.
“We’re one big family,” she said.
Tom Chronister, who owned the Intrada for 24 years, said he’s pleased with what the Vecino Group has done with the building since buying it from him.
The hotel, which is across the street from a railroad, served as the social hub of the community for years, he said.
“The work of the Vecino Group turned out really well,” he said. “I knew they were dedicated.”
The Intrada also received historic tax credits through Historic Equity Inc., an investment company that helps restore landmarks.
“The project is having a huge, transformational impact,” said the company’s president, Philip Estep.