As another grant is pursued, survey will guide where to invest dollars

    Lee Meier of the Northwest Multi-County Housing and Redevelopment Authority in Mentor and John Scheving of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development visited with the Crookston City Council's Ways & Means Committee this week to discuss the Small Cities Development Program grant for commercial and rental rehabilitation.    

    The city received their last two-year grant in 2012 for just under $600,000. One of the commercial projects included was the rehab of the "H & R Block" building on Second Street, home to Opticare, Studio 108 and H & R Block. In addition to other commercial space projects, the grant made numerous rental rehab projects possible, with local dollars being matched by SCDP grant funds.   

    "Are we going to be looking at downtown again?" asked City Administrator Shannon Stassen.    

    "We are looking for everyone's guidance," said Mayor Genereux. "We still have some wards in the flood plain."   

    "A lot of additional homes we thought were out of the flood plain got mapped back in," added Public Works Director Pat Kelly.    

    "If you look at the last market value rate, there is a two percent vacancy rate," said Meier. "Is there rental demand downtown? How many applied last time? Maybe you could tweak some of the data, but we need to know by the end of June."    

    "Does it have to be specific?" asked Ward 4 Council Member Hector Santellanes.    

    "It should be a targeted area," answered Scheving. "The guidelines look for 'slum' or 'blight.' In my opinion, you will get higher marks for more slum-looking places."   

    "Were there any places that didn't get approved last time?" asked At Large Council Member Wayne Melbye.   

    "There were, but maybe they weren't ready," answered Meier.    

    "I know there was a cut-off in the Woods Addition by Almira Street, but they weren't within their boundaries the first time," added Melbye. "This whole thing was for places that couldn't be fixed before. Do you think there's still interest?"   

    "Maybe we could do some stuff downtown and then look at the Woods Addition?" Genereux wondered.    

    Scheving said, "The original grant indicated 10 units. We have 16 properties on the list that we've either addressed or at least talked to them."    

    "What about individual homeowners?" asked Ward 6 Council Member Tom Vedbraaten. "It would be nice to see people on a fixed income get help with new windows or siding."   

    "We could look at homeowner rehab or rental rehab," answered Meier. "Maybe do a survey or study and find out who is interested."    

    "A good place to target is Ward 1 by Highway 75 for commercial," added CHEDA director Craig Hoiseth.    

    "So our goal might be to do a survey then?" asked Genereux.    

    "What will be the areas targeted?" asked Ward 5 Council Member Dale Stainbrook.    

    "Downtown, Ward 4 and the Woods Addition and the Highway 75 Corridor," answered Genereux.    

    The Ways & Means Committee voted for NWHRA and DEED to conduct a survey and then to discuss a "Plan B" if they don't get a good enough response.    

    The SCDP grant helps cities and counties with funding for housing, public infrastructure and commercial rehabilitation projects. It benefits people of low and moderate incomes, eliminates slum and blight conditions and eliminates the urgent threat to public health or safety. Only cities with fewer than 50,000 residents and counties with fewer than 200,000 residents are eligible.