The redevelopment plan presented for the former Grand Island Veterans Home campus is as good as anyone could have expected.
In fact, it’s a great plan that will add needed services to Grand Island.
Of course, the Grand Island community was devastated when former Gov. Dave Heineman announced that a new Central Nebraska Veterans Home would be built in Kearney and the Grand Island home would be closed. Grand Island had supported the veterans home for 132 years, but earlier this year it was closed and the buildings have been sitting empty.
Now, though, the redevelopment plan selected by the state will put the campus to good use and help it to remain a “jewel” of the community.
There are many reasons to be excited about the redevelopment plan. First, those proposing it have a proven track record of success in developments in Grand Island and throughout Nebraska. Local developers Ray O’Connor of O’Connor Enterprises and Chief Industries, led by Vice President Roger Bullington, are Grand Island people and companies who have completed successful developments in Grand Island and elsewhere in the state.
They are joined by the White Lotus Group, a real estate development firm out of Omaha, and the DLR Group, an engineering company based in Omaha.
This is a powerhouse lineup of developers and Grand Island can be confident that they will find the financing for the project and be able to complete it.
A second reason to support the project is what it will involve. It will help meet several community objectives: helping veterans, increasing housing options, adding to college offerings and helping to attract workers.
The first phase of the $50 million project would turn the single-floor buildings into housing for veterans and the spouses of veterans. Some local veterans have called for the veterans home land to be used for veterans — this does that. There would be 100 housing units for senior veterans and their spouses.
The second phase would provide community college-type space in the center of the campus and also provide housing for people who are serving in internships. Often, interns only need housing for a few months. That can be difficult to find, so that kind of housing would be beneficial. And when interns come here, they will often return after completing college, adding to the local skilled labor force.
The third phase of the project would turn a building on the east side into an affordable assisted-living space.
The overall intent of the project would be to make the campus into a historic district.
The redevelopment plan gives Grand Island the “opportunity to make lemonade out of lemons,” as local veteran Willie Skala said at the meeting announcing the plan.
And it allows Grand Island to continue to showcase the history of the campus and show how it still cares for veterans.