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CommonBond breaks ground on affordable housing project

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Golden shovel blades and a sprinkle of rain christened the ground of a 42-unit affordable housing site in Rapid City Wednesday afternoon at a groundbreaking for The Radiant, CommonBond Communities’ first project in Rapid City.

The project is being built on Racine Street, near the intersection of Omaha and Lacrosse streets.

CommonBond Communities, a nonprofit affordable housing organization, first came to Rapid City in 2019 to help address the city’s affordable housing shortage. They partnered with the Rapid City Collective Impact initiative, using grants from the Black Hills Area Community Foundation and the John T. Vucurevich Foundation to begin real estate acquisition and development.

Three years later, the groundbreaking is a "culmination of many, many years," said CommonBond President/CEO Deidre Schmidt.

The apartment building will include one-, two- and three-bedroom units, made possible through funding from the National Affordable Housing Trust, Bridgewater Bank, South Dakota Housing Development Authority, John T. Vucurevich Foundation and Black Hills Area Community Foundation

“I’ve had years on the board and I’ve never seen a community — and I’m talking from the bottom of my heart — that have done such an amazing job as you have today," Schmidt said.

Schmidt said the project is a prime example of public private partnership, recognizing their staff, public entities and elected officials. She referenced her first trip to Rapid City in 2018 to talk about affordable housing, and an 11-year-old who sat in the front row, took notes and asked “incredible questions.”

“This was the first sign I had that this community was fundamentally different,” she said.

Schmidt said the commitment and collaboration she’s seen in Rapid City has been something she’s never seen before.

“It’s clear that you think you can make a difference,” she said, “and you have, and you will continue to make a difference.”

One of CommonBond’s goals, Schmidt said, was to bring federal resources that come through the state agency to West River.

“And so you're not only making a difference with resources right here locally generated, but you're leveraging them many times over and you're attracting money that wouldn't have necessarily come to this community otherwise,” she said.

Alan Solano, president/CEO of the John T. Vucurevich Foundation, called the day “momentous.”

“Now I’ve been told that if it rains on your wedding day, that’s good luck,” Solano laughed, speaking over rumbling thunder as attendees huddled under a tent. “And I’m sure then that if it rains on your groundbreaking day, it’s also alright.”

Solano recalled a housing meeting as far back as 2014, talking about the need for affordable housing in the community. The work has continued on from that point, he said, culminating at Wednesday’s groundbreaking.

Solano said CommonBond’s presence in Rapid City is a new way of approaching affordable housing, bringing support services to “great developers that are doing great work in affordable housing.”

The community is going to learn a lot, he said, and the project will provide an opportunity for other developers and property managers to look at, and explore, ways to integrate the same concept.

Liz Hamburg, Black Hills Area Community Foundation executive director, reiterated the project’s reflection of successful collaboration and conversations, and the need to keep going.

Lorraine Pollock, executive director of the South Dakota Housing Development Authority, said the project was not only a new partnership with CommonBond, and new units for Rapid City, but also for families.

“We're excited for the opportunity that they will have, because we all have decent, affordable housing, but it's the services that you are bringing that are going to make a huge difference in their lives and that gives them a great opportunity to reach their goals and become the citizens of the community that they want to be,” she said.

Mayor Steve Allender said there’s a time for talking and a time for doing, “and we’ve spent a lot of time talking.” He said they've used the term “affordable housing” improperly, and as a tool to manipulate, with few examples of true affordable housing.

He referenced people living in their cars, and the people who keep the city running, that the 42 units will be a "exceptional blessing" to. Housing is a "major issue," he said, that cannot be ignored.

"Let's get 10 or 15 more of these buildings up," Allender said.

This is not the finish line, Solano said. “This is just the starting point. We have a lot of work to do.”

“We look forward to being back in a year to actually walk through the units and see them and the new families that are living there,” Schmidt said.

–Contact Laura Heckmann at lheckmann@rapidcityjournal.com

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