A large group of people gathered Tuesday evening to break ground on Wayne State College’s upcoming student housing project.
The student housing will be located in downtown Norfolk off of North Third Street and Winter Avenue, the site of Tuesday’s groundbreaking ceremony.
Students from Wayne State who will be living in the new housing also attended the event.
“I don’t think anybody is more excited about this project than these 30 students that are with us today,” said WSC President Marysz Rames.
A portion of WSC students will start living in the new student housing in the fall of 2023, while also participating in apprenticeships in Norfolk. More students will be moved to the housing later.
According to Rames, students are expected to stay in the housing for 16 months.
State Sen. Mike Flood of Norfolk also attended the event and spoke about what’s to come with the housing project and Growing Together initiative.
“And we are not only going to find you great jobs, we’re going to add more,” Flood said.
According to Flood, they also are planning on bringing tech companies and a cryptocurrency bank to Norfolk.
“We will work night and day to put as much in this downtown as we can to build from within in our core, so that you, as you grow older, can raise and support a family (here),” Flood said.
Downtown Norfolk also may start looking more artistic in the future.
According to Flood, Third Street and Norfolk Avenue will serve as an epicenter for a “creative district” in the future.
“And this is the perfect location for what we’re doing,” Flood said.
Josh Moenning, the mayor of Norfolk, also spoke at the ceremony about the history of the project.
“This is really where Norfolk started — along the banks of the North Fork River,” Moenning said. “And now, with this project, and other plans we have for improvements within the river channel itself and Johnson Park, we’re going back to that history.”
Dan and Connie Geary, the owners of DEG Enterprises and DACO Construction, will be building the new student housing.
Dan Geary spoke at the ceremony about his experiences living in Norfolk as a student and why he’s stayed since he graduated in 1974.
“And you know, we live in Nebraska, all my kids have come back to Nebraska and they live here with us,” Geary said. “So that’s what we’re trying to do is, to get people to stay in Nebraska and live here. It’s a good place to live.”
Many of the other speakers at the event expressed gratitude for the Gearys and their involvement.
“Dan and Connie have put a lot of money into this downtown for the right reasons,” Flood said. “And they were here long before anybody else showed up. And they have built from within and our core. If every community had a couple like this, it would be amazing for our state.”
The speeches were followed by the groundbreaking and a reception at the Downtown Coffee Co.
“It’s a proud day for all of us today,” Moenning said. “It’s a kick-start to a new beginning in our community, and I’m excited to watch it all unfold.”
The new WSC student housing is a part of the Growing Together Career Scholars program in Norfolk. Thanks to a $24,000 scholarship from the Growing Together initiative, 75 WSC college seniors are expected to live in the housing for free.