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AK Investments opens 10 new apartments in Dickinson

Kris Fehr, managing partner of AK Investments, addresses a crowd Thursday afternoon at the open house for South Main Apartments, an affordable housing project created with tax incentive dollars and using a 100-year-old building. To her left is Dickinson Mayor Dennis Johnson and to her right is Jolene Kline, North Dakota Housing Finance Agency acting director.

Community leaders joined AK Investments on Thursday afternoon to celebrate the completion of a renovation project that, using tax incentives, breathed new life into a 100-year-old building and will open 10 apartments in Dickinson's tight housing market.

When Kris Fehr and her husband, Alan Fehr, purchased the building at 161 South Main St. for their AK Investments company, they weren't sure what to do with the historic building.

The part of the building facing South Main was recently a liquor store while the main part of the building was last used in the '90s as a waterbed and fireplace store with apartments on the second floor. At the time the Fehrs purchased the building, there wasn't a need for retail, office or apartment space in Dickinson, so it was used as storage.

"Over the past five years, Dickinson has grown with the energy industry," Kris Fehr said. "I've heard really heartbreaking stories of people who may have jobs, but they can't afford the housing here."

AK Investments put in an application with the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency for funding through the Housing Incentive Fund program.

"The cost of renovating an existing building, particularly one that's more than 100 years old, is very expensive," Kris Fehr said.

The total cost of the project was $1.5 million. In addition to a 30 percent contribution from NDHFA, totaling more than $400,000, Bank of North Dakota Flex PACE Affordable Housing Program funds were used. Stark Development Corporation provided a $25,000 matching grant and American Bank Center provided more than $880,000 in permanent financing.

"I liked Kris' thought process when she came to us," said Jolene Kline, North Dakota Housing Finance Agency acting director. "At that time, the project could have gotten funded with Housing Incentive Fund dollars with a portion of the units being market rate. We provide 30 percent of the funding, so 30 percent of the units have income targeting. The other 70 percent could have theoretically been market rate."

Marathon Oil and American Bank Center were major contributors to the Housing Incentive Fund for the project, Kline said.

AK Investments also worked with the Dickinson City Commission to include South Main Street in the renaissance zone to take advantage of further tax breaks in the creation of South Main Apartments.

There are two two-bedroom units and eight one-bedroom units in the complex, which also features off-street parking and a laundry room, Kris Fehr said.

"The project is about helping people who fall between the cracks -- fall between what's classified as low-income housing and people who can pay whatever the market rate is," Kris Fehr said.

Four of the units were spoken for and renters will begin moving in next week.

"These are rented to people who aren't making the big money, but they're working," Kris Fehr said. "These are people who are making our town great, progressive and productive."

The North Dakota Congressional delegation, consisting of Sens. Heidi Heitkamp and John Hoeven and Rep. Kevin Cramer, all issued statements on the need for this type of housing, and the innovation and creativity to change a retail structure into affordable housing.

Alan Fehr is a Republican in the North Dakota House of Representatives representing District 36, which encompasses Stark County, northwest Hettinger County, southern Dunn County and western Morton County.

"Highway 22 is a main corridor in and out of our city," Dickinson Mayor Dennis Johnson said. "One of the things that our commission and our city staff has emphasised is trying to maintain the curb appeal of our main corridor. ... I was excited because here we're in an existing neighborhood and they would like to take an old building and turn it into something better for the community."

One one-bedroom unit is reserved for a household earning no more than 50 percent of Stark

County's area median income. A single person earning less than $23,300 would qualify to rent the apartment for $623 (including utilities) per month. Seven one-bedroom units and two two-bedroom units are reserved for households earning no more than 140 percent of the county's area median income. A single person earning less than $65,240 would qualify to rent the one-bedroom units for $990 per month or the two-bedroom apartments for $1,240 per month.

"Here was a building that wasn't being utilized to its potential; they took that building and converted it and 10 people that need affordable housing are now going to have a place to call home," Kline said.

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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