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  • Blight Study to Start the Process

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    It has been since 2003 since the City of North Platte has added any area for a blight designation that would open the door for community redevelopment projects.
    The ground work has been laid over the past year, and the formal process begins at tonight’s City Council meeting.  It is important to understand this process only validates the need for this designation and does NOT include any potential projects at this time.  We do however, believe projects will come forward if the designation is approved.
    Several months ago the North Platte Chamber and Development Corporation Economic Development Committee authorized a study to be conducted by Hanna-Keelan Associates to explore the redevelopment potential of the West “A” and Dixie Avenue area.   A General Redevelopment Plan has now been completed for Blight and Substandard determination and our board of directors is formally requesting that the City of North Platte give this due consideration.
    We feel this area has great potential for future housing and light neighborhood commercial developments, but due to the excessive costs of dealing with the existing blighted and substandard conditions it has hampered the neighborhood’s ability to move forward with development.   At the same time the North Platte community has continued to expand in the surrounding area, leaving this infrastructure challenged area void of development.  The risk is simply too great for investors to build in this area because of the infrastructure challenges and have it match up with the housing cost level expectations in North Platte.   Any potential tax increment financing benefit would go towards public infrastructure costs and correcting deficiencies and eliminate blighted areas such as the old irrigation channel that dissects the property.
    We are confident developers and investors are willing to come forward with much needed proposed housing projects by further mitigating the risk, should the City approve the general redevelopment plan outlined in the study.  The developers have previously made it clear to us, they will NOT move forward with the projects in this area if it does not receive the designation.
    At tonight's meeting, we are asking the City Council to forward the study on to the Planning Commission for its consideration and recommendation.  The Planning Commission would meet March 22 on the issue and the Council would then have the final determination on April 19.  Both are public hearings.
    This area was under consideration for the potential site for the Veteran’s Home project that was being considered in proposals submitted by Nebraska communities a few years ago, including North Platte.   It was at that time, local economic development leaders became more acquainted with the challenges of development in this specific area.  The challenges can be overcome through the assistance of redevelopment incentives that would help correct some of the deficiencies and build additional public infrastructure.   This in turn will help reduce rent levels and housing costs to match the work force wage scale if development follows.
    Should this area get the designation we are requesting, each development project moving forward within the defined area would have to stand on its own merits, including any zoning changes. Any public infrastructure assistance would be negotiated directly with the City’s Redevelopment Authority.  Quality market rate facilities, including transitional type rentals, will allow our local employers to grow their work force and as a result the new residents will help grow the local economy with their purchasing ability.   This also allows us to help convince other employer payrolls to look at North Platte for their expansion and investment plans.
    While many programs already exist for low income and low and moderate income housing, it is projects such as the ones we will later be proposing that are designed to help the average working person or family that wants to move to North Platte.   These are the types of jobs that have been defined by the major employers in our community.
    The recognized need for additional housing is significant and in many ways our community has faltered behind the housing efforts of some of our peer 25,000 population communities such as Kearney, Hastings, Norfolk, Columbus and Fremont.
    Projects such as the “Shot in the Arm” and the potential projects in this defined area will help us move forward and grow our community’s economy and population base.
    The thing that makes it possible and legal for North Platte to be proactive in this effort is a law that dates back from the early 1950’s called the Community Development Law.  The most important thing to remember as this process and public attention centers around our efforts is the word “Community”.    The process is very open and transparent.  To grow our work force and to accommodate existing and potential new employers, we must have additional housing.
    Mayor Dwight Livingston has further enhanced this effort with the recent appointment of a Housing Task Force, which is a collaboration of many entities and people involved in housing issues.   This is a dialogue that can help us reach all spectrums and income levels of making the housing situation better in North Platte and Lincoln County. Please feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns about the process. 
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