WINDOM - Windom is looking to grow its population, but in order to do so, it needs more housing.
That’s the word from Windom Economic Development Director Drew Hage, as well a 2014 housing study that found that 130 additional units were needed by the end of the decade. That process hasn’t been cut and dry, but not because there’s no developer in sight, Hage said.
“I thought the hardest part of doing a multi-family housing project would be finding the developer, but the hardest part has been trying to find a location that works for the developer and the community,” Hage said. “We haven’t been able to do that.”
Increasing housing has been a priority of Windom’s economic development office since Hage joined as director in 2016.
Hage noted possible benefits for growing the community, including increasing the tax base and being eligible to receive state gas tax funds, which could amount up to an additional $350,000 for the city.
More housing would also support Windom’s businesses. According to Hage, the combined workforce of Windom’s three largest manufacturing businesses are comprised of more employees that commute to Windom rather than live there. Between FAST Global Solutions, Toro and Prime Pork employees, only 35 percent live in the Windom zip code, Hage said.
“There are more Prime Pork employees commuting from Worthington to Windom than Prime Pork employees who live in the 56101 zip code,” he said.
With a goal of pushing the city’s population to 5,000 in 2016, the city had identified a location and found a developer wanting to invest $5 million in a housing development project in Windom.
Considered a better return on investment, a market-rate, 46-unit development was identified. The multi-family complex would have a community room, fitness center, elevator and green space with an outdoor picnic area with a fire pit.
That complex - which was planned at the overflow parking lot south of the Community Center - was met with opposition from residents in that neighborhood, so the city council rejected it.
Now, after more than a year of additional planning, the city is focused on a different location: 18th Avenue near the Windom Area High/Middle School. But much like the first location, Hage said, the 18th Avenue location has also been met with opposition. A petition with more than 75 signatures in opposition to the proposed housing project has been received.
Additional traffic, Hage said, is a primary concern. The 46-unit complex is estimated to create 322 vehicle trips daily on a residential street that Hage said can support 1,000 trips daily. Given current traffic estimates, the additional traffic from the complex would not exceed 1,000 trips, he added.
The city is hosting several public meetings with the goal of informing the public about the project and considering input to formulate a recommendation by March to the city council.
“We realistically can’t string along the developer much longer,” Hage said.
The city’s second public meeting about the housing development project is slated from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday at City Council Chambers, 444 Ninth St., Windom.
The agenda will include evaluating potential locations in the community for the project. A survey of the top locations will be then disseminated so more community members can rank their favorability of the identified locations.