WORTHINGTON - Local economic development officials are teaming up with a home builder and community bank to construct additional homes in the city.
The Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp. will work with Dan Wagner Construction and First State Bank Southwest on a project to create up to 10 lots for homes on a parcel of land across from Olson Park. The property in question was the subject of a rezoning proposal back in January, when a plan that included an apartment complex, a daycare and an assisted living facility was being considered for the site. The Worthington City Council, however, opted not to approve the rezoning during the proposal’s second reading.
WREDC Executive Director Abraham Algadi said Wednesday that the new initiative represents a commitment from his organization to bettering the community in multiple ways.
“I’ve tried really hard in the last five years of working with the board to improve our position from the standpoint of being not just a cheerleader, but an active participant in attracting and better treating young professional populations,” Algadi said.
“The work we do does not cause overnight change; if you will, it’s almost boringly gradual,” he added. “But it’s change that happens, hopefully, for the better. I’m really proud to say that I think we have excellent partners that have recognized that in this day and age, there maybe needs to be more innovative economic development models that can help make change happen.”
One key sector WREDC sees in positive development within the community is housing, Algadi said. That’s why a partnership with a contactor like Dan Wagner Construction is taking place - and why the corporation has continued to maintain a key strategy with the cooperation of Nobles County, the city of Worthington and District 518.
“We want to succeed in creating a full-service community that will be helpful in attracting and maintaining the right workforce,” Algadi explained. “WREDC has felt from the very beginning that the housing tax abatement is an important part of addressing that.”
Algadi said the lots in the new housing initiative will have both single-famlly and duplex homes that he expects to be similar to the South Lake Development duplexes built across from Prairie Elementary.
WREDC will contribute $183,000 toward necessary infrastructure for the site. Wagner will access that fund to build and make available lots for which the city of Worthington can subsequently issue building permits.
First State Bank Southwest, meanwhile, is working to finance the purchase of the land, currently owned by the Blume family, Algadi said. It’s hoped that work will begin as early as this spring or summer on the homes, which will likely carry a price tag of approximately $350,000, he added.
Algadi said he expects some current Worthington homeowners to build new houses in the planned development, which would then “make available other opportunities” to other citizens - particularly those prized younger families relocating to the community.
Along with working on housing efforts, WREDC is aiming to attract and retain the types of businesses “that at least offer an experience outside the home, whether it’s for families, kids or young professionals,” Algadi described. That would create the type of full-service community that’s appealing.
That’s also where the Worthington Investment Network (WIN) fits in. WIN, which aims to purchase and renovate buildings and lease them to businesses, is currently working with WREDC on preparing the former Rickbeil’s building on Third Avenue and Ninth Street for Forbidden Barrel Brewing.
“Without WREDC doing the day to day, I was doing all the running,” WIN President Alan Oberloh said. “To not be able to come down here (WREDC office) and have somebody able to put the ideas to paper and have that information disseminated to take care of the day-to-day operations, it would be very difficult.”
“WIN is well received by our stakeholders and our membership, and it’s going to bear some fruit,” Algadi added. “It’s hopefully encouraging others to scratch their heads and wonder what other opportunities are out there, and then fill them.”