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Grand Forks LaGrave on First project set for groundbreaking as soon as August

Grand Forks City Hall, 255 N. 4th St. (GF Herald photo/Sam Easter)

A Grand Forks homeless housing project cleared a major hurdle this week after federal officials unfroze the funding it needs to roll ahead, with groundbreaking expected as soon as late August.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a waiver document for the forthcoming LaGrave on First building, federal leaders announced Thursday. The so-called "housing-first" project is expected to cost more than $8.5 million, rise four stories above the intersection of Walnut Street and First Avenue South and provide the homeless with a permanent place to live. The building will also include on-site support, such as addiction counseling.

The project had been delayed earlier this year following a "procedural error" Grand Fork city staff made administering federal funding for the project. Federal officials discovered in March that a certain type of funding had been spent before the project had passed a public comment period, an important milestone in its environmental review process. Though no environmental problems were found at the site, significant funding for the project had been frozen.

The waiver, finalized on Wednesday and announced on Thursday, begins a process that could grant permission to ink construction contracts before the end of the month. It unfreezes roughly $1 million in construction funds as well as $5 million more in rental assistance for tenants over the first 15 years of the project's life.

"This is kind of record timing for approval of a waiver," said Meredith Richards, a senior community development official with the city. City Administrator Todd Feland said he's thankful for the North Dakota congressional delegation's support, all of whom signed a letter urging Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson to expedite the waiver.

Terry Hanson is executive director of the Grand Forks Housing Authority, which is spearheading the project.

"We think it's great news, and we sure are appreciative to everyone who put a lot of effort to making sure the waiver went through as expeditiously as it could," he said. "It's behind us and we're just moving on."

Sam Easter

Sam Easter is a City Government reporter for the Grand Forks Herald. You can reach him with story tips, comments and ideas at 701-330-3441.

(701) 780-1108
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