Article by: Cathy Enerson
CEDA Director of Grants, Michelle Vrieze, has wrapped up the Small Cities Development Program Block Grant (SCBG/SCDP) two year grant period in Preston, MN. Vrieze worked closely with CEDA team member Cathy Enerson who serves the Preston EDA. Vrieze and Enerson helped the community to inject nearly a million dollars into the existing commercial and rental housing stock in eight blocks of Preston, a city with 1,350 residents. CEDA’s grant team reported that Preston closed out the SCBG/SCDP grant in December 2018; the grant funds were used to rehab fifteen (15) commercial projects using $288,000 in grant money, along with the use of EDA loan funds and private dollars. In addition to the fifteen (15) commercial buildings, thirty-three (33) rental units were rehabbed using $252,000 in grant money, along with Greater MN Housing funds and private dollars. The total investment of all funds was $933,835.75.
The Greater MN Housing loan funds played a significant role in improving a fourteen (14) unit apartment building that changed ownership due to the purchaser’s ability to qualify for grant funds for a significant rehabilitation project. The Preston EDA will continue to administer its EDA companion loans.
Jon B. DeVries , AICP, who serves on the Preston EDA stated, “As a citizen and new member of the EDA Board, I can attest to the significant impact the SCBG/SCDP Grant and Greater MN Housing funds have had on the eight downtown commercial blocks surrounding the courthouse square. New businesses are in place, multiple existing buildings are under renovation, and the downtown is being animated by residents moving into renovated apartments.
De Vries, along with other EDA board members toured the rehabbed eight blocks a few months ago. The success of the grant/loans along with a 2018 housing needs update which was updated by Enerson and a University of Minnesota Morris student has encouraged the EDA to form a Preston Housing Committee. The committee is using EDA, Preston Community Foundation, and SMIF grant funds to stimulate new housing construction by creating content for a livability website tab to promote Preston. The initiative hopes to attract developers and development to accommodate anticipated employment growth. Anticipated growth will come in part from the proposed Veterans home, the DMC ripple effect and the need to make up from the currently unfilled housing needs.
“I found an extra benefit of using the SCDP block grant program,” Enerson said. “Unlike the revolving loan funds, we could use this tool to improve the community’s non profit buildings. Buildings like Preston’s DAC (a building that houses the County’s disabled workforce) and Preston’s Serviceman’s Club were eligible.”