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Posted on April 16, 2021 at 3:22 PM by Bryan Obenchain
It can be easy to forget how much progress we’ve made when things are happening so quickly. I was reminded of that when I read a Letter to the Editor a few weeks back about Blu on Broadway.
This private/public project went from concept to a prominent skyline feature on South Broadway in less than two years. A once-empty building will soon be replaced with a new mixed-use structure with 42 affordable housing units and commercial space expected to open this year. At first, I was dismayed that the letter’s author considered this a troubled project. But after some thought, I realized this was just a call for more information about this project and the progress we’re making in the community thanks to the National Disaster Resilience program. Blu on Broadway is, so far, proving to be a successful investment - and it’s just one of many.
When Minot was awarded $74.3 million through Housing and Urban Development’s NDR competition, we knew utilizing those funds to help us become a more resilient community would be a long-term process. And while some of the items in the City’s action plan have changed, the goal remains the same: Making our community a better place to live, work, and play.
Five years later, the work continues in earnest to complete the City’s objectives and fully allocate the funds by Sept. 30, 2023, as required by HUD. And we’ve made tremendous progress on many projects:
Blu on Broadway: This project will create low-to-moderate income housing and retail space in a new five-story building under construction on south Broadway. Crews were able to make significant progress during the warmer-than-normal winter months, and the project remains on schedule to be completed this fall. Much work has been done on the exterior of the building, but a lot of work is happening inside the structure. If you drive by and don’t see crew members outside working, it’s because they’re inside doing plumbing, electrical, and other work. While approximately $4.75 million of the project’s estimated $10 million cost came from NDR, the remaining $5 million came through private investment. The project will not only create LMI housing to address lingering unmet needs from the 2011 flood, it’s also a prime example of what can be accomplished through public/private partnerships that promote sustainable growth strategies for the community.
Family homeless shelter: This project includes up to $5.8 million in NDR funds. The City had entered into an agreement with Lutheran Social Services North Dakota to manage this facility, which includes space for a food pantry and other services. However, LSS ceased all operations in January. We are working with LSS and Lighthouse Management to convey the property back to the City; a court decision is expected by mid-May. Once the City has possession of the property, we will seek a new partner in this venture, which will create a six-unit family homeless shelter and 17 units of low-to-moderate income rental apartments.
City Hall relocation: Using NDR funds, the City purchased the former Wells Fargo building in downtown earlier this year for $2.608 million. There remains $5 million in NDR funding for the project, which is estimated at $12 million. Architects from JLG are working with City departments to assess space needs and create a design for rehabilitating the building. The design recommendation will be presented to the City Council. It’s likely that City Council chambers will relocate to the new building, and employees currently housed at City Hall would relocate to the new building, as well as the emergency dispatch center, information technology department, the Public Information office, and others. The Minot Police Department, which has needed more space for years, would utilize the vacated space in the current facility. Municipal Court would likely also relocate into the current City Hall building.
Milton Young Towers: Construction is under way on long-term improvements to this building that will serve Minot’s low-to-moderate income community well into the future. Through NDR and in conjunction with the Minot Housing Authority, the City invested $5 million to update mechanical systems, fire safety, backup power systems, and install new high efficiency plumbing and lighting systems, and new energy efficient windows. The renovations will create 18 new two-bedroom apartments to help meet the needs of families. The relocation of current residents began in February, with most relocations being within the building. The construction is expected to be completed in 10 to 12 phases, with each phase scheduled to take 10 weeks.
Park South II: The City of Minot entered into a subrecipient agreement with Essential Living to build 22 affordable housing units in southeast Minot near the South Hill Softball Complex. Work on the project, known as Park South II, is scheduled to resume this spring.
Acquisitions: As of March 2021, the City has acquired 174 properties, with 81 properties secured using NDR funds and 93 properties using funds from the State Water Commission. These properties were needed for ongoing or upcoming flood mitigation projects. In addition, the City’s structure and salvage auctions continue, and all income generated from sales goes directly back into the acquisition program for future use.
Affordable housing: As of March, 150 people have applied to the Resilient Homebuyer Program; 63 remain in the process of review and eligibility verification, 56 applicants were not eligible or withdrew, and 34 people have closed, with seven more in the process of setting up closing dates. The program is still accepting applications. As a result of this program, we have invested $2.4 million in NDR funds in single family home ownership.
The NDR funding has been instrumental in creating opportunities that will help make our community a more resilient place to live, with projects directly improving the quality of life for many of our residents. Yes, federal funding inevitably comes with some strings attached, but those conditions have not prevented Minot from utilizing this investment for the betterment of our community as a whole. We’ve been good stewards of this funding, and we’ve accomplished many things in the past five years. But we know there is much work ahead, and we remain committed to completing the tasks in the action plan we submitted to HUD.
Sincerely, City Hall.
You can find more about what’s happening at the City of Minot at minotnd.org, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. We’d also encourage you to sign up for our monthly electronic newsletter on our website.