Tower 217 Work Gets Underway with Grant

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A redevelopment grant will help work get started on a Grand Island landmark and continue to rejuvenate downtown.

Developer and contractor Amos Anson says they're calling the Masonic Temple building "Tower 217" after its North Locust Street address. But Anson says they don't know yet if businesses or living units will fill the seven-story building that's say empty for several years.

"We've created to see what kind of interest there is, if there's a whole bunch of interest from commercial guys, then that's what it's going to be," says Anson.

Before anything else can be done, there are life-safety issues that have to be dealt with.

"The entire building needs fire sprinklers and it needs a second exit, which causes a problem when it's land-locked with buildings all around it," Anson says.

A nearly $292,000 grant from the Community Redevelopment Authority will help Tower 217 fix those issues.

Grand Island Regional Planning Director Chad Nabity says the CRA also awarded $50,000 to the Downtown Improvement District to fix up Kaufmann Park at Wheeler and Third Street.

"That's the things that bring people into the area and provide that immediate public benefit," says Nabity of the goal to make it an area for activities to start.

But he says both projects are efforts that fall in line with rejuvenating downtown.

"The reason to declare something blighted and substandard is to encourage redevelopment in those areas as well, not just the new property on the edges of town," he says.

Anson, who has helped redo other buildings downtown, says Tower 217 is another step forward.

"It doesn't have to stay dilapidated, it doesn't have to be what it's always been, but it takes people with some vision to be able to make a project happen that's going to keep building downtown up," he says.