Wayne State College

Ground Broken for Growing Together Career Scholars Housing in Norfolk

Published Friday, April 29th, 2022

Norfolk housing groundbreaking
The groundbreaking for the Growing Together Career Scholars housing development in Norfolk was conducted by, from left, WSC Vice President for Academic Affairs Steven Elliott, WSC Executive Director of Cooperative Education Michael Keibler, Dan Geary, Connie Geary, Norfolk Mayor Josh Moenning, State Senator Mike Flood, WSC President Marysz Rames, Executive Director of Northeast Nebraska Growing Together Angie Stenger, and Aksarben Foundation President Sandra Reding. Students from Wayne State’s career scholars program were on hand to celebrate the important step toward their year of living and working in Norfolk.

The Norfolk living experience aims to connect students with the community and social and cultural opportunities

Wayne State College, in collaboration with DEG Enterprises and DACO Construction, broke ground April 27 for the Norfolk Student Housing development for the Growing Together Career Scholars program in Norfolk, Neb. The housing units will support Wayne State’s career scholars, who will live in downtown Norfolk their senior year as they perform two semesters of cooperative education with an employer. WSC’s first cohort of students will arrive in Norfolk in fall 2023.

Speakers at the event included Wayne State President Marysz Rames, State Senator Mike Flood, Dan and Connie Geary of DEG Enterprises and DACO Construction, and Norfolk Mayor Josh Moenning. The speakers were joined for the actual breaking of the ground by Aksarben Foundation President Sandra Reding, Michael Keibler, executive director of cooperative education at Wayne State, Steven Elliott, vice president for academic affairs at Wayne State, and Angie Stenger, executive director of Northeast Nebraska Growing Together.

Rames kicked off the event by expressing appreciation for Flood’s leadership with the Growing Together initiative and Sandra Reding’s efforts with the Aksarben Foundation to secure funding for scholarships for the first 30 students in the program. Rames then went on to reflect on the city of Norfolk’s contributions and the generosity and vision of Dan and Connie Geary.

“This effort has also involved a wide variety of stakeholders from the committee that worked with the RFP process to the city leadership that assisted with securing the TIF and of course the Geary family, Connie and Dan, who have stepped up to the plate to serve as the developer,” Rames said. “Without their leadership, vision, and passion for Norfolk this project would not be moving forward. On behalf of the Wildcat family, we thank you for taking a leap of faith and being our partner on this housing project, which is a central piece of the coop program. I am thrilled that Wayne State is able to deliver the cooperative education program to Norfolk.”

Flood celebrated the Growing Together Career Scholars students who were at the event, Dan and Connie Geary for their work supporting the project and the city’s vision for redevelopment, Mayor Moenning, Aksarben for the organization’s financial support of the students, and the Norfolk City Council.

“This really is a community project,” Flood said. “People are now looking to leadership in Norfolk to help grow their own cities. We are truly celebrating today. This project could not be in better hands than with the Gearys. If every community had a couple like this, it would be amazing.”

The student housing for Wayne State students will be built in the new Block One River Addition in Norfolk, with anticipated move-in ready date of July 2023. Dan and Connie Geary, owners of the property, are planning to develop the property in three phases.

The student housing, with an anticipated cost of $3.6 million, is part of phase one and will be the focus for their first buildout on the property, portions of infrastructure will be built shortly thereafter, followed by other units for food, retail shops, and housing. The student housing units will be built by their property management company, Geary Investment Company. General Contractor for the project will be DACO Construction Company, Inc.

“We believe in this project and the Career Scholars program,” Dan Geary said. “We have chosen a Mid Century Modern look for the student buildings. Senator Flood has referred to the look as West Coast, which, yes, that description fits the look very well. However, much of our design inspiration is drawn from our local downtown architecture.  We are so very excited to get started on these new homes for the Wayne State Growing Together students, who will soon be part of our community.”

“I have walked this area frequently and long imagined what could be done with this space,” Mayor Moenning said of the area to be developed for the student housing. “Now, with this project, we are going back to the history of Norfolk along the river. This is the launchpad of redevelopment of an area that gave life to Norfolk. This will have economic, social, and cultural benefits for generations.”

Moenning went on to thank the Gearys for having a vision of redevelopment long before others did. He also expressed gratitude for the work of the Norfolk city council, Norfolk Natural Resources District, and city staff for planning and design work.

“I also want to thank Senator Flood for having the wherewithal to come up with a creative plan to attract and retain young people for our community,” he said. “And, thanks to Wayne State College for the innovation and imagination in creating the Career Scholars program. This is a proud day for all of us and a great kickstart for our community.”

Cooperative education is a method of combining classroom education with real work experience for college credit. At its core, the Career Scholars Cooperative Education Program supports workforce and economic development in Northeast Nebraska. To participate, students must be passionate about earning a degree in one of the eligible fields and must be committed to remain in Northeast Nebraska. The Norfolk living experience aims to help students connect with the community and gain an appreciation for the many exciting social and cultural opportunities available in the city of Norfolk. Upon graduation, the goal is for students to be hired into full-time positions in Northeast Nebraska.

For information: Michael Keibler, Executive Director of Cooperative Education at Wayne State, at 402-375-7198 or [email protected].