Photo: Lieutenant Governor Mike Foley (third from right) and representatives from Western Nebraska Housing Opportunities and Twin Cities Development pose at the revitalized Eastwood Apartments.    

Lieutenant Governor Mike Foley joined local officials, State representatives and staff from Western Nebraska Housing Opportunities (WNHO) in Scottsbluff today to tour the newly-renovated Eastwood Apartments. The project was completed with the help of a $500,000 grant from the Nebraska Affordable Housing Trust Fund (NAHTF).

“This project represents a terrific investment into community revitalization, and is a great example of how the Trust Fund can be leveraged to achieve local goals for safe, affordable housing development,” said Lt. Gov. Foley. “Our congratulations go out to the staff at Western Nebraska Housing Opportunities for executing on their vision and bringing this project to fruition.”

The Eastwood building began its life over a hundred years ago as a boarding house for workers from the local sugar factory, before changing hands to become the Wardman Hotel, Cottonwood Inn and recently, the Eastwood Apartments. The building deteriorated over time to the point of uninhabitability, eventually becoming a problem property with unwanted criminal activity.

Having past experience with large-scale revitalizations, WNHO purchased the Eastwood in 2015, initiating renovations to the building’s north wing. Major fixes ranged from new windows to updated water, sewer, heating, cooling and electrical systems. The initial 11 apartment units were remodeled to become affordable, safe and functional living spaces. With assistance from the State Historical Society, stringent efforts were made to preserve the building’s historic attributes.

“The structural components of the building remained in great shape after all these decades,” said WNHO Executive Director Rawnda Pierce. “The interior, on the other hand, needed a lot of work. We knew we would have to find an outside funding source in order to complete the next phase of renovations.”

In 2017, WNHO applied for a grant from the NAHTF, hoping to secure the $500,000 needed to initiate Phase 2 of the renovations. Administered by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED), the NAHTF is the State’s largest financial resource for quality, affordable housing development, having financed thousands of new builds and rehabs across dozens of communities since its legislative inception in 1996.

“The Trust Fund is an essential resource for housing development and revitalization throughout our state, and has played in instrumental role in helping our communities achieve their goals for available, affordable and quality homes to accommodate families and the workforce,” said DED Director Anthony L. Goins.

WNHO was notified of its successful application later that year, receiving the full $500,000 grant award. An additional $10,000 from both the City of Scottsbluff’s Façade Improvement Program and First National Bank of Omaha helped start the project prior to State funds becoming available. Today, the Eastwood is completely revamped, containing 20-plus studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments for rent starting at $495 per month, utilities and internet included. The building has an entirely fresh look and feel.

“Everything inside is brand new, but retains elements of that early-1900s era history,” Pierce said. “It’s a complete makeover of the building. This improves the entire neighborhood. The Eastwood Apartments have gone from basically uninhabitable to being a place people are going to be happy to call home. We’re proud to know we were able to do something of this magnitude and help provide much needed affordable housing for the residents of the area.”