After establishing the Dodge County Investment Fund in 2018, the Greater Fremont Development Council is looking to continue to spur workforce housing projects in the community through the revolving loan fund in 2019 and beyond.

Along with continuing to provide “gap” financing to developers, like the Morningside Crossing apartment complex which received $1 million from the revolving loan fund last year, the Greater Fremont Development Council (GFDC) is also looking to extend funds to homebuyers before the calendar turns to 2020.

According to GFDC Executive Director Garry Clark, the Dodge County Investment Fund (DCIF) was created partly out of the need for workforce housing throughout Dodge County as laid out by a 2017 County-Wide Housing Study completed by Hannah:Keelen Associates of Lincoln.

“That was really the genesis of this whole thing,” he said.

That report estimated the housing target demand in the county at 858 housing units by 2022. In Fremont, the target was estimated at 676 units--and those numbers looked to increase with the creation of hundreds of potential full-time employment opportunities coming to the community, said co-author Tim Keelan in 2017.

“Around 1,500 units are going to be needed in Dodge County overall—and around 1,200 units for Fremont,” he said when presenting the study’s findings in late 2017. “The first number is kind of conservative—you definitely need to address it.”

The study also found demand across demographics--including young professionals, families, seniors, and people of low, middle and high incomes.

“It’s really about heads and beds,” Clark said. “We don’t have enough people and the people we do have we need spaces to call home.”

Along with contributions totaling $1.03 million from area businesses and government entities, the DCIF was also funded through an $850,000 matching grant from the State of Nebraska through the Rural Workforce Housing Investment Fund which was created with the passage of the State Legislature’s LB 518 Rural Workforce Housing Fund Bill in 2017.

Through the bill, state lawmakers channeled about $7 million from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund into the new rural workforce fund to help housing development projects in counties of less than 100,000 residents.

GFDC was one of fourteen agencies who received the first round of grants, after showing they could match the state funds on a dollar-for-dollar basis.

The fund received contributions from the City of Fremont, Lincoln Premium Poultry, Fremont Beef Company, Fremont Contract Carriers, First National Bank, and the Fremont Area Community Foundation. The City of Scribner also donated to the fund.

After growing the DCIF to a total of $1.88 million through local contributions and the matching $850,000 grant from the state, GFDC authorized the first loan from the fund to developers of Morningside Crossing which broke ground in Nov. 2018.

Morningside Crossing is being developed by Pure Properties, LLC and will be located near the intersection of U.S. Highway 275 and Morningside Road across from Fremont Contract Carriers and Eagle Distributing.

The mixed-use development is planned to be completed in three phases including a first phase 108-unit apartment complex and eventually totaling 300 units. The development will include a walking trail, dog park, resort style pool, and other amenities as well as commercial development.

“Our goal is to provide quality housing for the people of Fremont,” developer Spencer Lombardo said at the groundbreaking. “I don’t think Fremont has seen an apartment complex this size or magnitude in about 20 years.”

While the DCIF provides funds to large multi-year developments like Morningside Crossing, it can be utilized for a variety of projects including several second-story housing renovations being undertaken in Downtown Fremont in 2019.

According to Dodge County Housing Program Manager Kelly Gentrup, three applications for funds to complete renovation projects in Downtown Fremont have already been approved.

“There are five units being renovated and the developer that has applied for these funds is going to try and bring some more housing to Downtown Fremont,” she said.

Gentrup says the applicant for all three projects is Murray Property Management, LLC. and will include renovations to second-story apartments in the Fremont House at 631 N. Park Avenue., the old Northwest Bell Telephone Building at 630 N. Park Avenue and the building that formerly housed Fia + Belle at 84 W. Sixth Street.

Along with providing loans to developers, Clark and Gentrup are also working toward using the DCIF to assist homebuyers and renters in the community as well.

Clark says that could potentially mean offering First Time Homebuyer Assistance to local workers through their employers or other small loans to assist those looking for housing in Fremont and Dodge County. 

While that potential program has not yet been unveiled by GFDC, Clark says the goal is to roll it out this calendar year. 

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