- Associated Press - Monday, March 28, 2016

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) - The Renaissance on Main (ROM) is a layered culmination of community involvement to make the dream of creating a mixed-use, multi-purpose building in the heart of downtown Williston a reality.

“I always had the dream that downtown would be thriving, full of life and activity,” said former Williston Mayor Ward Koser. “It’s the center of the community.”

With the smell of plaster and cement hanging in the air, the vast open retail space that has yet to be built out into a restaurant or boutique gathered city officials to usher in the unveiling of the anticipated ROM building - and what they were calling, “the Renaissance of downtown,” the Williston Herald (https://bit.ly/22HLY5w ) reported.

“I feel it’s surreal to live here,” said ROM resident, Katrina Henry. “I feel like I live in a four-star hotel made just for me. I’ve dreamed of living in a place like this.”

The public and private partnership was celebrated by Chicago-based Renaissance Company, the city of Williston, North Dakota Housing Finance Agency, First International Bank & Trust, and other entities.

At a time when affordable housing was in crisis, CEO of the Renaissance Companies, Nancy Kapp, had diligently looked around Williston looking for an investment that would help alleviate some of the strain on the community. She recognized that a parking lot along Main St. was not the best use of space and began researching the possibility of building a project to the magnitude she envisioned, which would soon pull funds from several locations.

In attendance was Jolene Kline, Executive Director of the ND Housing Finance Agency, who played a crucial part in getting the $15 million development off the ground.

Through the Housing Incentive Fund (HIF), $3 million was committed to the project with the understanding that a portion of the rooms be reserved for essential workers such as teachers, medical, law enforcement, and city and county personnel.

“Fifteen income-restricted rentals give more than $700 to spare for that household to spend on other needs,” Kline said, addressing the financial incentives of essential workers. The HIF would be forgiven after 15 years if they keep the affordable housing units at a rate approved by housing authorities.

The city of Williston stepped in with the Flex PACE Affordable Housing program, which gave access to the Bank of North Dakota to buy down the interest rate on the loan. Guidelines stated that the community match funds which was made possible by providing $300,000 toward a traffic signal on the ROM street corner.

“It really is a win-win for everyone,” said Executive Director of the Williston Economic Development, Shawn Wenko. “We were able to leverage Bank of ND dollars for a project through an in-kind match with an infrastructure project we had to do either way.”

Finding the right bank took some research but ultimately the 1st International Bank & Trust was selected, offering a $6.6 million loan. The remaining portion was equity put forth by the Renaissance Companies.

“People want a product they can see,” Wenko said. “Now that we’ve hit a calming period where we’re not at a breakneck pace we’re starting to see a tremendous amount of commercial interest. I foresee (ROM) will fill up fairly quickly.”

After the remarks and acknowledgments, Nancy Kapp embraced her daughter and Chief Operating Officer for the Renaissance Companies, Jeanmarie Kapp.

“Yes,” Nancy concluded. “We did build that.”


Information from: Williston Herald, https://www.willistonherald.com

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