EDA discusses rent increase at Country View apartments

Photo by Chad Koenen
The Henning EDA is recommending a new forgivable grant program that could provide a grant to downtown Henning businesses to complete enhancements and projects to the outside of their property.

By Chad Koenen


Downtown Henning businesses owners who want to make an upgrade to their property may be eligible to receive additional funding in the form of a grant.

During its regularly scheduled meeting last Wednesday morning, the Henning EDA approved a recommendation for a matching grant program in conjunction with Otter Tail County to provide funding to downtown Henning businesses. The funding will provide a grant for a portion of a project to businesses who want to improve their facade on the outside of their business. 

As part of the program, downtown property owners could receive a dollar-for-dollar match grant for projects up to $10,000 apiece. The EDA will match each dollar provided for the project with a forgivable grant that will be forgiven over the course of three years. The project is only available for businesses in the downtown corridor of Henning. 

Funding for the program comes from Otter Tail County and can be distributed by the Henning EDA. The city will receive a set allotment of funding each year from the county’s Community Growth Partnership Grant Program, which will be established and funded by the Otter Tail County Development Agency. 

Matching grant dollars can be used for commercial rehabilitation in the downtown area, which includes things like permanent exterior improvements to upgrade and improve facades and appearance of commercial/retail buildings. Some of the improvements include things like awnings and canopies, masonry work, windows, doors, entryways, painting, siding, signage, landscaping and more. 

While the City of Henning has already used its 2024 allotment of the grant, EDA member Andy Eckhoff said the county approved the city for grant funding in 2023, which is still available to property owners in the downtown area.

“Our ‘24 allotment will be pretty much filled up, which is great. At least we are using the money,” he said. “We can get this money, have it in place if the individuals want to use it.”

The grant portion of each project will be forgiven on a sliding scale, essentially meaning 33 percent of the grant will be forgiven each year for three years. If the property is sold within three years, the amount of the grant that had yet to be forgiven will need to be repaid to the EDA. The property owner is required to contribute a matching dollar for each dollar of grant funding it receives for the project. The individual contribution the property owner puts towards the project is not forgivable. 

In order to make the forgivable portion of the grant as easy to understand as possible, EDA member Nathan Thalmann said the group needs to put the information in layman’s terms and make it easy to understand for everyone involved. 

“I just think that needs to be very clear and not in lawyer terms, but laymen terms,” said Thalmann. 

Eckhoff said the funding could be in place as soon as April as the county set aside the funding in 2023. The EDA just needs the blessing of the Henning City Council and inform the county of their intent to participate in the program. He said the Henning EDA could also offer low interest loans for the individual match for business owners to allow them to participate in the program with little money down. 

In other news

• Discussed a potential increase in rent at Country View Apartments. The EDA raised rent at the city-owned facility last year by $50 per month to offset rising costs and discussed another increase in 2024. Eckhoff said the facility lost just over $32,000 after undergoing over $54,000 in upgrades and deferred maintenance that had been put off for several years. EDA members Robert Johnson and Thalmann both expressed an interest in seeing the financial statements from the past four years to get a better idea of the revenue trends for the facility before making a decision on increasing rent. While the facility lost money in 2023, something that Thalmann said was not a surprise given all of the upgrades that were completed in just one year, the facility made over $28,000 in 2022. Currently rent for a two bedroom apartment is $725 per month, while rent on a one bedroom is $615 per month. No increase in rent was approved at this time. 

• Discussed a loan request from Cornerstone for $25,000 low interest loan to tear down the former garage store building on the corner of 2nd St. and Douglas Ave. and replace it with an expansive outdoor seating area for The Farmstand. The loan request was recommended for approval by the city council.

• Discussed a proposal from Microlenk Technologies for a new camera system at Country View Apartments. The proposal was estimated to cost $2,574 and would provide three new cameras and allow for remote access viewing. The EDA said it will look into the proposal.