In Detroit Lakes, the community development corporation. has been a force for good, both large and small – Detroit Lakes Tribune
You think the Midwest Minnesota Community Development Corp. in Detroit Lakes only handles big projects, like the multi-million dollar renovation of the historic Graystone Hotel and Annex in Detroit Lakes?
The MMCDC has quietly made a big difference — from Detroit Lakes to Frazee to Lake Park to Perham — in many small ways over the past few years. Here are some examples, taken from interviews and the MMCDC website:
In Audubon, the MMCDC purchased Zephyr Estates, an 8-unit USDA rural development apartment building, in 2016 and worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to keep rent affordable – less than $400 for an 8-unit apartment. two rooms.
MMCDC has well-run, well-maintained apartments like Zephyr Estates in more places than you might think: there’s Eastside Apartments in Lake Park; Barbara Avenue Apartments, Eleventh Avenue Apartments and West River Townhouses in Detroit Lakes; the Gardenview, Summerplace and New York Mills Home apartments in New York Mills, the Graystone Annnex and Graystone Hotel apartments in Detroit Lakes; Jefferson Apartments in Mahnomen; and the Meadow Run and Pine Villa apartments in Menahga, among others.
In Frazee, four new homes have been built on degraded property, courtesy of the MMCDC.
A few years ago, Nicole Kirchner, Vice President of Business Development, and Julia Nelmark, then Director of the New Markets Tax Credit Program and now President of MMCDC, provided $1.7 million in funding. flexible three-group offering innovative affordable housing solutions.
One of them, the Northwest Minnesota Housing Cooperative, built the Frazee houses using its concept of “smaller houses, smaller lots, smaller price tags.” In 2018, these homes were priced on average $50,000 less than MMCDC’s regular home sales.
“It’s getting harder and harder to build affordable housing for large numbers of people,” Nelmark said. “We look at anything and everything to keep them affordable.”
Other affordable housing developments completed by the nonprofit agency include Long Bridge Heights in Detroit Lakes and developments in Wadena and Thief River Falls.
“We plan to do other housing projects in the near future,” Nelmark said. “Mahnomen and Frazee were our newest.”
The consistent good work done by the MMCDC is one of the reasons it has just received a $500,000 grant from the Otto Bremer Trust. This is in addition to a low-cost $500,000 loan the previous year that Otto Bremer made to MMCDC White Earth Initiative.
Although some of the larger foundations appreciate the MMCDC, the work it does sometimes slips under the local radar.
When community members came together in 2016 to form the Manna Food Cooperative, for example, MMCDC helped with technical assistance, flexible funding and referrals.
Manna is now located in downtown Detroit Lakes and offers fresh, organic and healthy food and produce including locally produced eggs, coffee, maple syrup, wild rice, fruits and vegetables, produce dairy, soaps and lotions, bread, chocolate bars and more.
These small MMCDC projects make a big difference in the lives of ordinary people.
In Park Rapids, the MMCDC helped 55-year-old Donna Murphy become a first-time homeowner.
After her rental home in Park Rapids was sold, an area lender refinanced her car loan, which helped reduce her overall debt. They also connected her with MMCDC, which set up two affordable home loan programs for her, including a “second loan” with no upfront payment.
MMCDC also guided her through an online homebuyer training course called Framework. She was able to negotiate a lower price for the house and had the sellers fix the plumbing before the loan closed. In the end, she paid less for her monthly mortgage than she was paying in rent.
In Perham, Trisha Pickar was able to access a loan from the MMCDC to buy and renovate a 135-year-old brick house.
She has created a one-of-a-kind kitchen in her new home. It features distressed wood and reclaimed pewter cabinetry from a custom cabinetry, reclaimed stainless steel, and weathered barn wood.
Perham Housing and Redevelopment Authority also helped, with $3,000 in down payment assistance, interest-free and with deferred payments.
Also in Perham, MMCDC provided a $27,800 home improvement loan to help Melissa and Nick Price renovate their historic home. They gutted the house to the studs and found it structurally sound. A bathroom has been added upstairs, and the staircase and landing have been updated. The original wood was salvaged where possible and the leftover wood was repurposed as a dining table. And when they were done, the house was warm and cozy – no more freezing inside the house in the winter.
Small business owners and non-profit organizations have also benefited from the MMCDC. Barber Jon’s in Detroit Lakes and the Discovery Center at the Tamarac National Wildlife Center have received loans and assistance from the MMCDC.
So it’s not just the $7.6 million loan to expand and improve the clinic and hospital in Park Rapids, or the $10.45 million loan to build a cancer research center in the Fergus Falls Hospital, or even the combined $19 million in low-cost loans for Crookston’s new skating rink and the new Duluth Sports Center, which includes the Boys and Girls Club space.
It is also many small things for many ordinary people that make MMCDC a force for good in the region.
“We’ve always done small projects,” Nelmark said. “Back then (in the early years) too – people were just hearing about the greats.”
Since its founding more than 50 years ago, MMCDC’s bread and butter has been the Federal New Markets Tax Credit program. He received between $30 million and $70 million in tax credit authority virtually every year to use on projects that qualify for the public good.
He is asking for $70 million in tax credit next year.
Although some of the financial instruments it uses may seem complicated, the underlying philosophy of MMCDC is simple. “We work on whatever is needed in the communities we serve,” Nelmark said. “We’re looking at how to fund this and make it happen.”