CRA looks to redevelop old middle school

Local4 News at 5
Published: Sep. 1, 2023 at 10:09 AM CDT
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - Housing is certainly an issue in central Nebraska, and one organization is attempting to turn a longstanding building into apartments, but first they have to get past some legal challenges.

The Community Redevelopment Authority owns the old Hastings Middle School, located at 714 West Fifth Street.

Executive Director, Randy Chick said the CRA acquired the building by treasurer’s deed because they paid approximately $30,000 in delinquent taxes. They’re currently going through the court system to obtain the title.

The reason being is because the previous owner titled the building in the name of a non-existent Indian tribe. Chick said they are in federal and local court attempting to clear the title. That will allow them to sell the building to a developer.

The goal is to renovate the building into an apartment complex. Chick said they want to preserve the building because so many locals went to school there. But there’s a few reasons finding a developer will be a challenge.

“Number one it’s a really large building,” said Chick. “Number two in the past two years construction cost and interest rates have gone crazy. So interest rates are triple what they were two years ago for commercial real estate.”

Chick said they have reached out to several developers about the project, but everything is still in preliminary talks. He said it could take two or three years to find a developer; and with interest rates threating to go up it could take even longer.

Saying commercial project pricing is something that’s constantly changing. Adding it could cost over $10 million to renovate the building. He also said this project will greatly benefit Hastings.

“We need rental space. We need homes for people that want to own,” said Chick. “In 2021, we did a housing study and I think it said we needed like 1,300 homes and rentals just to catch up with how far behind we were.”

Chick said they want to create at least 65 apartments. They might be just a drop in the bucket, but important for the community to have. Adding, downtown is the perfect location for an apartment complex.

“We have had an incredible amount of development. So we have local investors spending a lot of money in our downtown, both to create upper level living units but also to do really cool things on the main floor, coffee shops and breweries and restaurants.”

Chick said he thinks being close to downtown will make the apartment a popular place to live and it’ll also help the local economy.

”Well it should help them to spend their money around here instead of going to the area of town,” said Darla Bruna, Broker at North Shore Real Estate. “So I think it would help you know bring more people in. As the houses maybe come down in price a little bit that may you know impact us as well. But I think the apartments are needed in Hastings.”

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, one affordable home produces three jobs and $60,000 in local income.