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A Hibbing neighborhood park may be the future home of 52 rental units

Cobb Cook Park in Hibbing on May 21, 2024.
Megan Buffington
/
KAXE
Cobb Cook Park in Hibbing on May 21, 2024.

Lots of parks and little housing have the city and Housing and Redevelopment Authority of Hibbing planning a new purpose for Cobb Cook Park — if funding comes through.

HIBBING — The Housing and Redevelopment Authority of Hibbing is planning a new housing development with a unique location.

The HRA and the city identified Cobb Cook Park as the future location of 52 workforce housing rental units. Cobb Cook Place would include a three-story building with one- and two-bedroom apartments and townhomes with three or four bedrooms.

But new development wouldn’t necessarily be adding to the city’s housing stock. The 52 new units would be the first phase of a two-part development to replace the blighted housing.

Haven Court Apartments, also known as Greenhaven Apartments, is the oldest and largest complex owned by the Hibbing HRA. Built in 1952 and renovated in the ‘90s, the 100-unit townhome development has multiple vacancies because of excessive damage.

“The capital needs are so great that it’s not something that rehab will answer the question, solve the problem for, essentially,” said Jackie Prescott, HRA executive director.

The 2.5-acre Cobb Cook Park is one of 15 neighborhood parks in Hibbing. These parks are small and in residential areas with playground equipment, open space and maybe some sporting facilities. Cobb Cook is mostly a greenspace with a playground and one basketball hoop.

Prescott said the decision to select Cobb Cook Park as the location combines two studies the city conducted last year. One, a park study, found the city has a whopping 33 parks.

“So they’re trying to have a more manageable inventory,” she said. “And we also had a housing study done ... showing that we need to develop an additional, almost 100 units a year ‘til the year 2032, to keep up with the demand.”

Cobb Cook Park in Hibbing on May 21, 2024.
Megan Buffington
/
KAXE
Cobb Cook Park in Hibbing on May 21, 2024.

The plan would free up the Haven Court land to potentially develop more housing, but Prescott said right now, even the Cobb Cook development is not a sure thing.

“Until we get to the point where we know that’s an option [using the Haven Court land], what we’re really just trying to do is provide a better housing stock in the city of Hibbing,” she said.

Center City Housing Corp., a partner on the Cobb Cook Project, just received a nearly $2 million grant from the Minnesota Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation. But that, plus another $780,000 from the city and HRA, isn’t close to meeting the estimated $27.5 million project cost.

The HRA is planning to apply for close to $23 million in funding from the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, but Prescott said selection is highly competitive.

“One thing you do see in Greater Minnesota, especially in our region, is that the resources aren’t as great for the leverage component,” she said. “So that’s why the IRRRB adding this housing to their priorities and being willing to fund that is absolutely critical to continue to improve the communities throughout the Iron Range.”

The IRRR grant helps raise the local match amount, which increases the HRA's chances of being selected for funding, Prescott said. She feels good about where they’re at, but this will be the fifth Housing Finance Agency application they’ve submitted. The closest the Hibbing HRA came to receiving funding was for a similar project in 2022. Prescott said the HRA scored high in the selection process that year, but the HFA didn’t have enough money to go around.

In 2023, the HFA provided $348 million across 125 housing projects in the state, including one in Cass County, three in northwestern Minnesota and six in northeastern Minnesota, not including projects in Duluth. HFA project selections are announced in December.

“If we don’t do something with the existing Greenhaven Apartments, it is very likely that we will lose the housing that we do have,” Prescott said. “Because the investment is so great it’s not something that could ever be funded through our resources.”

Megan Buffington joined the KAXE newsroom in 2024 after graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Originally from Pequot Lakes, she is passionate about educating and empowering communities through local reporting.