Williston, N.D., has become the nation’s boomtown poster child. The epicenter of the state’s oil boom, the population has surged and housing is lacking, especially for lower-income seniors.
“A lot of older adults are feeling the pinch in Williston, with increased competition for affordable housing and increased pricing on previous affordable rentals,” says Jessica Thomasson, vice president of social enterprise for Fargo-based Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota.
Lutheran Social Services has helped fill the housing void and preserve a community landmark. It transformed the former Williston Junior High School (originally Williston High School), built in the early 1930s and shuttered in 2005, into Legacy Living at Central Place. The project, which was completed in May, includes 44 one- and two-bedroom units for seniors 55 and older earning between 30 percent and 60 percent of the area median income.
All of the apartments have been constructed to universal design principles to make them more adaptable for residents’ needs as they age in place. The developer also preserved the Art Deco qualities of the building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It restored windows, the entrance, and the gymnasium space, as well as converted classrooms into apartments. One resident lives in an apartment that used to be the study hall when she was a student.
“That’s the fun part of doing a historic rehab. People have a real emotional connection. It’s about the preservation of something that has meaning for people in the community,” says Thomasson.
Lutheran Social Services plans to partner with area organizations to bring community programs in for residents, including a seniors meal program.
Federal low-income housing and historic tax credits made up the lion’s share of financing for the $12.2 million development. Enterprise Community Investment provided the tax credit equity. Additional financing included a U.S. Department of Agriculture Sec. 538 loan, Neighborhood Stabilization Program 1 and 3 funds, Community Development Block Grant dollars, and local economic development and philanthropic support.