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Housing officials share plans to demolish West Fargo low-rise, redevelop site with 60 to 80 new units

Blake Strehlow, executive director of Cass County Housing Authority, holds a meeting with public housing residents Friday, Feb. 23, at the West Fargo high-rise, 230 8th Ave W. Kim Hyatt/The Forum

West Fargo residents came together with the Housing Authority of Cass County on Friday, Feb. 23, to learn more about plans to demolish and rebuild one of the state's oldest public housing projects.

Blake Strehlow, executive director of the Housing Authority, told residents that the project is still in its infancy and there will be plenty more meetings as plans — contingent on state funding — take shape.

Concerns of relocation during construction were expressed by residents after receiving a letter that first indicated the Housing Authority's intent to redevelop the West Fargo low-rise, which is near the high-rise located at 230 8th Ave. W.

Paul Berkness, a resident and veteran, said relocating residents will impact friendships. He said an important part of many residents' day is coming together for coffee and socializing.

"There's no doubt in my mind I will be upsetting that," Strehlow said. "But think about how great it's going to be when it's done."

Strehlow said the new project will only house people 55 and older. The nature of the beast, he said, is "there are people that will not be coming back."

Of the 60 residents in the low-rise project, about half are younger than 55.

Residents will be relocated using vouchers to allow them to enter the private housing market and find a place that will be subsidized. They will pay the same as they currently do, which is based on 30 percent of their adjusted monthly income.

The entire project is estimated to cost between $15 and $18 million to replace the low-rise with 60 to 80 units. There will be two to three floors, and the project could consist of multiple buildings. Strehlow said it will be similar to Heritage Hills senior housing in Dickinson, N.D., that was built in 2014 by the Stark County Housing Authority.

"It's going to be beautiful ... It's my dream," Strehlow said. "This is really exciting."

Strehlow boasted new amenities and upgrades, which could include garages or underground parking if enough funding is available. He told residents there would be a brand new elevator that actually works, which prompted residents to cheer and say "amen," indicating there have been issues with the existing elevator.

The project will be built using tax credits, and the Housing Authority will own it.

Strehlow said Friday that the Housing Authority will submit a tax credit application to the state this fall. If successful, the credit would be awarded in November. Demolition of the current low-rise would follow in the spring of 2019, when construction would begin.

Residents would be able to move into the new development in late 2020 at the earliest, he said.

Kim Hyatt

Kim Hyatt is a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and a 2014 graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth. She started her newspaper career at the Owatonna People’s Press covering arts and education. In 2016, she received Minnesota Newspaper Association's Dave Pyle New Journalist Award and later that year she joined The Forum newsroom.

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