The Hastings Community Redevelopment Authority hopes to continue the transformation of downtown thanks to its new $350,000 Community Development Block Grant.

The Nebraska Department of Economic Development announced last week the awarding of $12 million in Community Development Block Grant funding to 47 communities.

In Hastings, those $350,000, along with a $111,000 match from the CRA, will be used for façade improvements in downtown.

“We want to use these funds as somewhat of a carrot to attract developers to various downtown properties,” CRA Executive Director Randy Chick said. “Once again, we’re looking for the biggest bang for the buck. So if these funds can be utilized to rehab a portion or all of the exterior of a building, we’re hoping to be able to draw investors to spend private dollars on rehabbing the interiors.”

About $30,000 of that amount comes out for administrative fees from the South Central Economic Development District.

The CRA has targeted four “sizable” properties it owns for development.

“That does not mean that if somebody came in with another project that they wouldn’t look at that,” Chick said, referring to the CRA board.

Those properties include the former Dollar General building at 705 W. Second St.; the storefronts at 731-733 W. Second St.; The Cameron Building, which includes 103 to 119 N. Hastings Ave.; and the Phelps Art Gallery building at 601 W. First St.

The CRA will advertise for proposals for those properties. If those projects do not attract developers, Chick said, it’s possible proposals for other downtown buildings may be selected instead.

This latest round of CDBG grants comes after the Business Improvement District completed a downtown revitalization plan in 2013 and 2014 that identified projects that could spur revitalization in downtown and also received a $350,000 CDBG grant.

The CRA contributed a $112,000 match then.

In addition to around $50,000 for improvements to the parking lot on First Street west of Murphy’s Wagon Wheel, the $462,000 helped pay for façade improvements at Uptown Experience — the building that now is home to Odyssey restaurant; the Block 27 Lofts, which is home to Steeple Brewing and eventually Wave Pizza; and the First Street Brewing building.

Private investment in those projects has amounted to more than $3 million — a total that will be even larger by the time development of Wave Pizza is complete.

“We’re hoping these funds inspire someone to invest and create space,” Chick said. “Right now, you go downtown and look for space, there’s not a lot of space available out there right now. Some of that is because the CRA owns the property and is looking for developers. We’re hoping to be able to provide some sort of white box space that somebody can look at and say, ‘Hey, that’s nice brand new space I can move into without a lot of modifications from me. I don’t have to put all the air conditioning in, put fire-rated ceilings in and gut this building and put in a new façade.’ We’re hoping a lot of that gets done by a developer.”

For more information call Chick at 402-461-8415.

Community Development Block Grants are given to states by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to facilitate community and economic development in communities of up to 50,000 population. The states then turn around and distribute the money for projects. In Nebraska, the state Department of Economic Development administers the CDBG program.

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