COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
OWATONNA (POPULATION 26,420)
The City of Owatonna has been fortunate to experience incredible business expansion. This has led to the creation of many new jobs for our community over the last few years.
Because of this expansion, many new market-rate apartments have been built here. But we still have a housing shortage, so the city transformed an underused lot with a dilapidated building into a new 36-unit apartment community.
Site cleanup needed
This project was on an industrial site that had previously been the home of the local bus company. This site was selected due to its redevelopment potential, as it was close to commercial and residential areas, and it was also near a park.
After financing and zoning approvals were issued, we completed soil testing for footing design. The test showed the soils were unsuitable for the building, and special pile footings were needed for the project. The site also contained some petroleum that needed to be cleaned up.
These unexpected costs could have prevented the project from moving forward. However, we determined that a Redevelopment Grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) could provide the needed funding to prepare the site.
The DEED Redevelopment Grant Program is designed to help communities with the costs of redeveloping blighted industrial, residential, or commercial sites and putting land back into productive use.
Applying for the grant
With help from a consultant to complete the application and coordinate financing with the developer, the city submitted the grant application for $138,775 in February 2020. Then, roughly a month later, the grant was awarded.
The grant was matched one-to-one with city funds to complete the necessary cleanup of the site.
New workforce housing
The project was completed in November 2021, resulting in Eastgate Apartments, which has such amenities as underground parking, a community room, fitness room, and outdoor patio area. This new community, which serves those who were previously on a waiting list for housing, is now fully occupied, and the developer is planning another residential project next door.
The city is very pleased with the results of this project and is now taking steps to create more workforce housing options.
RENVILLE (POPULATION 1,301)
The City of Renville entered a partnership with Renville County Economic Development Authority and Renville County Hospital & Clinics in 2019. The goal was to build a new medical complex.
We decided to build the complex at the intersection of Highway 212 and Main Street, which is considered a gateway to our downtown business district. A convenience store that had been closed for 10 years and a blighted house that had been vacant for eight years were on the lot and needed to be removed.
The grant process
To help fund the project, the city applied for and received a Redevelopment Grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) in August 2019. We chose this grant because it seemed to fit the needs of the project.
It took quite a bit of time to fill out the application and gather the information for the grant proposal. As a small city with limited staff and budget, this was probably the biggest challenge. We knew it would be worth it, though, because the more details we could provide, the better our score would be. I’d encourage any city that has a need for this type of grant to apply. Although it was challenging and time-consuming, the folks at DEED were very helpful. They responded quickly to our requests and answered all our questions.
Starting the project
The project got off to a great start with the grant funds being used for asbestos and garbage abatement, demolition of both buildings, and removal of a fuel pump canopy and two underground fuel tanks. This changed the landscape of the area and created a footprint suitable for the new medical complex and parking lot.
There were then a couple of issues that slowed the project down. First, the hospital and clinic were converted from being county-owned to being affiliated with HealthPartners. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. These events set the project back about two years.
Getting back on track
The project is currently getting back on track. HealthPartners is committed to moving forward with the new clinic and has been a great partner to work with. A land agreement will soon be in place, and construction is expected to begin shortly after that.
The City Council believes the new medical complex will benefit the city and provide a higher level of care and services for our residents.