Plan addresses local needs
by Jim Dickerson
Albion Economic Development Corporation presented an ambitious plan to the Albion City Council last week.
The three-pronged plan represents an effort to address community needs that have been under discussion for some time and were outlined in the city’s recent comprehensive plan.
It will put to use a healthy chunk of the city’s sales tax receipts that have been set aside for economic development purposes over the past several years.
One part of the plan addresses the need for building improvements in Albion’s downtown area. This area has already been designated as a redevelopment area, and there is an obvious need for renovation of many downtown buildings.
The AEDC plan devotes $50,000 to a facade improvement program. Downtown property owners will be able to apply for up to half the cost ($5,000 limit) as an incentive for these building improvements. The projects can include repair or replacement of awnings, signage, display windows, doors, lighting, brick restoration and various other aspects of a downtown building that are visible from the street.
Project plans and budgets will be reviewed in advance, and inspected for compliance at completion.
The second and third parts of the AEDC plan address the community’s need for affordable housing. Again, this need was cited in the city’s comprehensive plan. The goal suggested by planners was to add as many as 55 units of owner-occupied housing and 45 units of rental housing during the next 10 years.
As one project, AEDC has designated $150,000 to plan and build a new affordable energy efficiant single family home — either on a vacant lot or by demolishing a dilapidated structure on an existing lot.
The other housing project would devote $50,000 to purchase an existing home in need of renovation, then involve local contractors in the remodeling work and resell the home.
In both housing projects, the hope is to recoup the investment through the sale of the homes, and create a revolving fund whereby more housing projects could be undertaken.
Will everything work as planned? I don’t know.
I do know that other communities have planned and carried out similar projects with some success.
When you think about the needs that our community planners have discussed during the past year, these projects are very limited in scope. The downtown facade improvement program provides incentive for about 10 building renovations. A quick look around the downtown area indicates many more than 10 projects could be done.
If we get 10 downtown projects completed, that could stimulate more. It has happened in other communities, and it could happen here.
In housing, there is still plenty of room for private enterprise to get involved. We are talking about one to two houses initially in this plan. The housing need is much greater than that.
The community of Albion has twice approved the LB 840 economic development program, and sales tax funds for that purpose are accummulating at the rate of about $75,000 per year.
This is a good sign that a majority of residents want the local economy to grow, and Albion has a good track record of economic development progress.
The above mentioned projects will be new experiences for the development corporation, but I believe they address both the long- and short-term community needs.