Vacant, dilapidated, and underutilized spaces continue to be a top issue in the UMVRDC region. It consistently ranks toward the top of issues identified in our annual UMVRDC survey that is sent out to the region’s stakeholders. As such, UMVRDC staff continues to look for impactful ways to assist communities and counties in this area and has carried out a range of activities including hosting a substandard buildings workshop in 2019, assisting with SCDP applications/projects across the region, and sharing helpful information/case studies to name a few. This webpage was developed to provide our partners with a comprehensive list of resources to help address local issues and inspire solutions bringing new life to underutilized spaces in the region. We hope you find it useful and if you have any questions or would like any assistance, please contact our office.
One of the recurring issues that we see in our region is that of vacant and dilapidated buildings and sites. These properties can be a public safety hazard, hinder development in their surrounding areas, and contribute little to the tax base, in fact, many are tax delinquent. UMVRDC staff continue to look for ways to address this issue and one of the strategies that has been implemented with support from the EDA CARES Supplemental Grant is the Developable Properties initiative. In 2021, UMVRDC staff and a U of M Morris intern collected data on available buildings and sites throughout our region and uploaded it to LOIS (Location One Information System). LOIS is a nationwide interactive database of available sites and buildings that developers and site selectors utilize. This data was also linked into the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development site selector system, as well as our own Prairie Waters Site Selector page.
After the initial data collection phase, communities were asked to voluntarily select one of their properties to work with the UMVRDC and an architectural consultant on a visioning process to think about how the site or building could be best utilized to fit the current and future needs of their communities. Benson, Dawson, Madison, Montevideo, and Ortonville chose to participate in this process, which consisted of two meetings with the architect and UMVRDC staff to provide input on the future use and design of the site/building. The final step of the process was a virtual meeting with representatives from all five communities, UMVRDC, and the architect to present the final designs and share how each community planned to use the final product in marketing the properties.
It is our hope that this process is just the beginning step in bringing these buildings and sites back to productive uses while building excitement locally and addressing a persistent rural issue in our communities.
In 2019, the UMVRDC hosted a workshop highlighting city and county examples that shared proactive approaches to substandard and dilapidated properties. Attendees were able to discuss and learn about strategies and solutions related to substandard buildings that could work in their communities. View here
Community Housing Assesment
Housing assessments can be an effective tool for communities looking to identify target areas for future investments and/or evaluate the overall conditions and needs of their housing stock.
Housing Case Studies
The UMVRDC has put together a few case studies related to housing. As additional housing projects are completed, we will plan to add to the list of case studies highlighting these success stories.
Regional Redevelopment Fund Feasibility
Funding assistance for demolition of properties has historically been difficult to obtain. While it is sometimes an eligible activity under various programs, it does not typically score high compared to other types of redevelopment projects. Often, an end use of the property is needed to qualify for funding. However, sometimes a community or neighborhood just wants an eyesore gone, with the thought that an empty lot is more attractive to development than a run-down, hazardous, dilapidated structure.
In 2020, the Economic Development Administration (EDA) awarded the UMVRDC funding through the CARES Act to help address the economic issues resulting from or intensified by the coronavirus pandemic. One of the tasks the UMVRDC set out to accomplish in this funding’s workplan was the feasibility of establishing a regional redevelopment fund to provide financial assistance in addressing dilapidated properties.
One of the first steps taken under this scope of work was partnering with the University of Minnesota Extension to conduct an initial study identifying resources to inform the possible establishment of a redevelopment fund in the region, including potential funding sources, examples of similar funds in MN (and across the US) and interviews with public finance experts.
From there, the RDC narrowed the focus of the feasibility study to that of establishing a regional demolition fund for dilapidated residential properties. In October 2022, the UMVRDC contracted with Ehlers Public Finance Advisors to take study the feasibility of establishing a regional demolition fund and how one could be funded, administered, and sustained. Ehlers completed this study in December 2022.
Funding Rural Redevelopment: An investigation into the establishment of a redevelopment fund in the UMVRDC area
Deb Brown – is YOUR community idea friendly?
On November 15, the UMVRDC and SWIF partnered to bring nationally known speaker Deb Brown from www.saveyour.town to the region to talk about the redevelopment of underutilized spaces in communities. Read morePresentation SlidesPresentation Video
State/Federal Partners & Programs
Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED)
- Small Cities Development Program (SCDP)
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development’s (DEED) Small Cities Development Program (SCDP), helps cities and counties with funding for housing, public infrastructure and commercial rehabilitation projects.
- DEED – Redevelopment Grant Program
- DEED – Demolition Loan Program
The U.S. EPA defines a brownfield as, “real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.” The following partners can assist with navigating through the process of redeveloping these types of properties.
- MN DEED Site Cleanup and Redevelopment
- KSU TAB
Kansas State University Technical Assistance to Brownfields, or KSU TAB, provides a wide array of free services and resources related to brownfield clean up and redevelopment. KSU TAB provides services in EPA regions 5 (includes MN), 6, 7, and 8.
- Minnesota Brownfields
Minnesota Brownfields is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a mission to promote, through education, research, and partnerships, the efficient cleanup and reuse of contaminated land as a means of generating economic growth, strengthening communities and enabling sustainable land use and development.
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, or MPCA, provides technical assistance, funding assistance for brownfield assessments and cleanup at the state level.
The US Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, provides information, resources, funding assistance and funding for brownfield assessments and cleanup at the federal level.
Community Programs & Examples
Below are some examples of local or county level redevelopment programs within our region and from around the state.
Commercial Improvement Programs
Examples outside our region:
MN DEED Main Street Revitalization Program
County Demolition Programs
Adaptive Reuse of Historic Buildings
- Adaptive Reuse of Historic Buildings in Rural Minnesota Document
- Center for Community Progress
- Creative Community Development Guide 2020.pdf
- Vacant building registry
- Third party administration of problem properties/property registration
- From Liability to Viability: A Legal Toolkit to Address Neglected Properties in West Virginia