Just Upstairs from Local Senior Center, Affordable Independent Living Apartments Open in Columbus

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Just Upstairs from Local Senior Center, Affordable Independent Living Apartments Open in Columbus

Officials and project leaders gathered in Columbus today to cut the ribbon on the city’s newest affordable rental option for seniors.

Following major renovations that saw support from Low-Income Housing Tax Credits and the National Housing Trust Fund, the second and third floors of the Columbus Family Resource Center (FRC) — formerly Columbus Community Hospital — have been transformed into 34 apartments for low-to-moderate-income tenants ages 55 and older.

The project, spearheaded by Mesner Development and the Columbus Community Foundation, addresses a big need in the area for affordable senior housing.

“A portion of these new units are reserved for seniors at or below 60 percent of the area median income, and some are reserved for those at or below 30 percent,” said Kathy Mesner, president of Mesner Development. “That type of housing is in high demand around the state, and this is a significant step forward for Columbus in terms of addressing a local need.”

The FRC began its life as a hospital before transitioning to a Boys and Girls Home and Family Resource Center in 2002. Since that time, it’s housed a variety of nonprofits, from United Way to Goodwill — as well as the Columbus Senior Center.

For Columbus Community Foundation, which acquired the FRC building in 2011, the FRC’s solid structure, available free space on the upper floors, and co-location with the senior center combined with a local need for affordable senior living options to create a match made in heaven.

“This concept has been a great fit from the very beginning,” said Don Heimes, FRC building manager. “Our tenants on the top two floors will have access to all the services the senior center has to offer, from hot meals, to cards and bingo, to exercise classes — the whole nine yards.”

To spearhead renovations, the Community Foundation enlisted the services of Mesner Development, which has a track record of creative reuse transformations throughout the state and the Midwest.

“We’re very pleased with the Mesner group. They have a lot of experience with this type of project, and their focus on affordable housing aligns with what we are trying to accomplish in Columbus,” said Heimes.

“The Columbus Community Foundation Board of directors is very appreciative of the Mesner Group, who, along with Don Heimes, made this project a reality,” said Robert White, president of the Community Foundation Board of Directors. “We also appreciate the assistance of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development and the City of Columbus.”

To finance the project, Mesner obtained Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) through the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority. Established in 1986, the LIHTC program has supported the development of thousands of affordable rentals throughout the state, helping communities like Columbus tackle their housing-related challenges.

Meanwhile, Columbus Community Foundation was successful in its application for $1.5 million in National Housing Trust Funds (HTF) through the Nebraska Department of Economic Development. A federal program administered by the State, the HTF supports the creation of quality homes for vulnerable groups who live at or below 30% of the area median income.

The finished 625-750 square foot apartments, Heimes says, are available in 29 one-bedroom and five two-bedroom options. All are brand new from floor to ceiling — none of the old rooms were used — and come equipped with a dishwasher, microwave, refrigerator and washer-dryer. Each floor also has a communal space for lounging and gathering. They are currently in the rent-up stage starting at $400 a month.

“They are really quite nice,” said Heimes. “And now we have a facility that will serve seniors in our community for decades to come. This was a great way to repurpose an older building that still had a lot of life left. I think it could be a great model to build on if other communities have similar opportunities.”

Visit opportunity.nebraska.gov for more information on Nebraska’s state and federal resources for affordable housing development.

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