When a friend first suggested he move to Nebraska, Rich Taylor said he reacted like a typical New Yorker.
"Nebraska? That’s somewhere in the Midwest right," he thought.
But Taylor discovered that Lincoln is a friendly, not too-big city, with great services for veterans.
Taylor will be among the first veterans to move into the almost completed Victory Park Veterans Residence, a three-story apartment complex on the VA campus near 70th and O Streets.
The Marine Corps and Merchant Marine veteran led the Pledge of Allegiance at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the project on Friday afternoon.
The apartment complex, for low-income veterans, is the first private project on the Lincoln VA campus, where developers hope someday to build rental town homes, additional apartments, office space, medical clinics and renovate the former VA hospital.
But redevelopment will not change the parade grounds on the campus. That is going to remain untouched, said Maj. Gen. Roger Lempke, a former adjutant general of the Nebraska National Guard.
It's taken a number of groups and hundreds of people almost a decade to get to this first phase of redevelopment on the VA campus.
"There were times we thought the picture (of the apartment building) was the closest we would get to veterans' housing," said Mark Richardson, president of the nonprofit Seniors Foundation of Lincoln and Lancaster County, which has a lease for the VA campus property.
Burlington Capital, formerly America First Real Estate Group, is the project's developer. Sampson Construction of Lincoln is building the apartments for low-income and homeless veterans.
The 70-apartment complex is Lincoln’s first available VASH housing, named after the voucher program that helps subsidize the rent for veterans.
The apartment complex was expected to be an $8.6 million investment, with about $320,000 coming from local tax increment financing.
Victory Park apartments will be managed by Burlington Capital, which also manages a VASH complex called Victory Apartments in Omaha.
The partnership for operating the apartments includes the private developer, the VA and the Lincoln Housing Authority.
Case managers at the VA handle the assessment process, determining whether a veteran qualifies for the apartment, said Tom York, with Burlington Capital.
Veterans, who meet income limits and other guidelines, are eligible for the subsidized apartments, where the rent is about 27 percent of the person’s monthly income.
Almost 40 veterans have already qualified for an apartment and many will be moving in within the next month, York said in a telephone interview.
“We hope veterans can start moving in around Dec. 1,” he said.
Taylor, who has done construction work, said he saw the apartments going up and found out from the construction workers it was to be an apartment building for veterans.
Taylor says his new apartment will be a little smaller than where he is currently living, but he will have much more peace of mind.