Newly Funded Program Could Boost Downtown G.I. Residences


Downtown lofts are popping up everywhere, but few are available in Grand Island.

That could change after a unanimous vote from Grand Island’s city council on Tuesday.

The council unanimously approved the Community Redevelopment Authority’s 2014-15 budget at the same levy as 2013-14. Hall County Regional Planning Director Chad Nabity said that’s a $686,119 tax asking.

That includes $200,000 a year for a new multi-year program to fund life safety and infrastructure grants to encourage upper story residential development in G.I.’s downtown.

"Downtown has a goal of 50 new residential units in the next five years. That's 10 a year," said Nabity.

The C.R.A. will provide $100,000 with matching funds from the city’s general fund.

"To me this is going to be pivotal. It'll be a tipping point," said Amos Anson, of FAmos Construction.

Anson's Tower 217 is the model for a new program, offering grants to downtown developers to deal with issues like fire walls and sprinkler systems.

"The gap that the developers are seeing, the people who have been doing this is about $20,000 between what they can come up with and what it takes to do," said Nabity.

That's been Anson's experience in six years developing downtown.

"It's always the financing. It's always money that makes things not go," said Anson.

Nabity said these investments could prevent fires like the one that destroyed four businesses in G.I.’s downtown this year and protect potential renters, who will likely be frequenting nearby businesses.

"It's all just a ripple effect. The more people living downtown there are, the more people that will come to the restaurants and shops," said Anson.

Nabity said the hope is that rental opportunities will boost valuations which could up loans over the next five years, eliminating the need for the grants.

But, the program's success could lead to another problem.

"Right now parking isn't an issue, but we want it to be an issue because that means people are downtown," said Anson. “It's going to be great and we'll cross that bridge when we get there."

Grand Island's budget talks continue Thursday, focusing on the capital improvement fund and a public safety study update.