An effort to repurpose the former Dana College campus recently earned state recognition from the Nebraska chapter of the American Public Works Association (APWA).
The City of Blair, Angels Share and Eriksen Construction were awarded the APWA's Project of the Year for the redevelopment of the campus earlier this month.
Blair Mayor Rich Hansen presented a plaque to Ed Shada, founder and president of Angels Share, the nonprofit organization that owns the campus, during Tuesday's Blair City Council meeting.
City Administrator Rod Storm said the city and Eriksen Construction also received plaques.
“It's a big deal for Blair, it's a big deal for what we're doing up there,” Shada said.
Storm said city staff and an engineer nominated the project, which includes the development of workforce housing, demolition of two former dormitories and the transition of the former campus, to the association's awards committee. It was selected out of numerous other projects that were submitted.
“These groups love public-private partnerships,” Assistant City Administrator Phil Green said. “For us, doing something with (Shada) as a nonprofit for nonprofit good purposes, for Eriksen on the private side building housing and then the city's use of TIF, it was a very innovative approach to try to solve this community-wide problem. Those are the kinds of things they like.”
Angels Share is seeking $11.4 million in grants from the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority's (NIFA) CRANE Program to renovate two dorms on the former campus for youth aging out of foster care.
Storm said NIFA has been supportive of Shada's effort because of the city's willingness to work with him in the redevelopment.
“They've never seen a city work so hard or work together with something of a project like this,” Shada said. “It's absolutely great.”
Green said the hope is Blair and the Dana campus will avoid what other cities have faced when educational institutions close.
“There are some communities that have had colleges close and 40 years later, they are still sitting there empty,” he said. “Hopefully, Blair is going to see, within 10 to 15 years of the college closing, that it's been completely repurposed and has new life.”