Skip to content
Community Action Center, 1651 Jefferson Parkway, Suite HS-200, Northfield, MN 55057
Community Partners

In response to growing community needs, CAC engaged an interdisciplinary team of volunteers, university partners, and consultants to show how community solutions to housing and climate change are possible, affordable, and achievable. The result of this unique collaboration became Hillcrest Village, the first-in-the-nation Net Zero Energy emergency shelter and supportive housing development. The hope is that Hillcrest Village will be a model for success in other communities.

Thank you to the many people who shared their time, talents, and financial support and helped make Hillcrest Village possible. Please read about a few of them here:

Northfield Construction Company

The most exciting part of the Hillcrest Village housing development will be at the end – when we see people living there.

Chris Kennelly, President

With over 20 years of project management and property development experience, Chris was given charge of coordinating the construction companies and managing the subcontractors of the three-phased housing project. In addition, Northfield Construction Company is building the three duplexes. Chris stated that it was rewarding to see the builders helping one another. The energy component of the construction is new to all of them; the concepts push the companies forward and help them improve. If it weren’t for the innovation of the Hillcrest Village’s housing project, the builders wouldn’t have learned how successful the modifications would be in affecting energy usage. He commended the other two home builders and expressed that it was nice to be on the same side of the table.

Chris is impressed by Northfield’s community involvement. He said that from competitive pricing to donations, the amount of support was incredible. As a person who regularly gives his time, treasurers and talents, the Hillcrest Village project was a perfect fit with his charitable beliefs. “Northfield Construction Company couldn’t be happier to be a part of this team effort,” said Chris.

Schmidt Homes

This is a special project. We learned together what it takes to build affordable and sustainable housing.

Steve Schmidt, President and CEO

Steve Schmidt’s enthusiasm for the Hillcrest Village housing project is contagious. This shared enthusiasm for Hillcrest Village has brought together top experts and over one hundred people in various fields to join in an endeavor of love and charitable giving.
Steve has been instrumental in bridging the connection between Northfield’s community needs and resident and business altruism. Over the last 40 years, Schmidt Homes has built nearly 500 homes in the area.

While on the CAC Board of Directors, Steve spearheaded the Hillcrest Village housing project. From the initial architectural research and building design to bidding and construction, he poured four years of personal time into building these revolutionary housing units. Steve recognized the importance of business cooperation for the good of the community. As such, he enlisted the help of other construction companies to create this unique, six-building, seventeen-unit development. When asked what pushed him to volunteer thousands of hours to build low-income units and housing for the homeless, he simply said, “Northfield has been good to me.”

Steve is most excited about the Hillcrest Village housing project because of its thoroughly researched energy component. With its practical application of double-wall insulation, Steve  forecasted the future outcome of buildings that will pay dividends on cost savings. “The housing units offer to pay back over many years,” said Steve. “That’s years of smiles from the people living in the houses.”

Johnson-Reiland Builders & Remodelers

There are so many exciting components of the Hillcrest Village housing project. This was an entirely different job for us.

Reiland Brothers

“CAC is a wonderful organization to work with and learn from. Our company is honored to have played a part in bringing the project to fruition” stated Paul Reiland.

Brothers and co-owners of Johnson-Reiland Builders & Remodelers, Matthew and Michael Reiland, follow in the footsteps of their father. With a reputation for exceptional design, they were called upon to consider involvement in the Hillcrest Village housing project.

Participation in this distinctive project, without federal subsidy, meant that the housing units needed to be constructed at or below cost. Matthew and Michael believed in the importance of helping the community. They knew that CAC’s hiring of local builders would fulfill the goal of building a better product that incorporated the energy-efficient component that was important to them.

Johnson-Reiland Builders & Remodelers’ contribution to the Hillcrest Village housing project included the construction of a three-plex. Passionate about building barrier-free housing, a one-level unit was designed to be wheelchair friendly. “The decision to be involved with Hillcrest Village was easy,” said older brother Paul. “Our construction team has the skills and resources to support this important community initiative. It was the perfect fit for us.”

The City of Northfield

The Hillcrest Village housing project’s foundation is that of building common bonds and a connected, authentic community. We have teamwork with a visionary and progressive can-do attitude.

Rhonda Pownell, Mayor

The City of Northfield has committed to climate action and affordable housing as part of Northfield’s critical strategic plan.“ Northfield is making progress by leaps and bounds,” says Mayor Pownell. “It’s full of leaders –professionals that have the energy, skillsets and passions to head in the same direction to accomplish incredible things. With the Hillcrest Village housing project, we partnered with CAC to meet diversity, equity and inclusion, Climate Action Plan, and housing goals. My role is to ensure that the people on the HRA are passionate about housing. I advocate and communicate the importance of safe and affordable homes in our community. When we’re at peace, with a unified vision and mission, we bring beauty to where we live. This inspires me. I’m grateful to be paving new ground for Northfield. The businesses and individuals of the Hillcrest Village housing project are making a difference for our future and having fun doing it.”

Alliant Engineering

This project truly was an eye-opening experience for me and, at times, I wondered how we would pull everything together. There were so many people dedicated to making this successful. The teamwork was remarkable.

Dave Nash, Senior Project Manager

While Alliant Engineering had a history of providing charitable contributions to organizations, this is the first time that John Dillingham, the founder, and company CEO, was contacted about donating services. He immediately said yes – knowing that his engineering firm’s staff members had the skills and dedication to get it done.

A civil engineer with over 35 years of experience, Dave Nash and three additional staff members from Alliant donated their time and talent to creating the site, sewer and water, utility, stormwater and street plans. Dave also assisted with obtaining permits through the City of Northfield and the State of Minnesota.

Dave brought numerous plan layouts and modifications before the City Council to maximize wants and needs with what could be fiscally attained. Planning was unique to this development, as MN DOT allowed them to incorporate State land for a holding pond.

Dave is impressed by all those involved in the Hillcrest Village housing project and stated, “When taking part in this type of project, businesses and individuals aren’t in it for the money; we do it because it’s the right thing to do.”

Sweetgrass Design Studio

The Hillcrest Village housing project is so innovative. I’m impressed by all the people who made it happen. The rapid fundraising efforts and community backing were amazing.

Brian Nowak, Proprietor

As project designer, Brian’s involvement began in the very early stages. He has a comprehensive history of residential design and believes that charitable contributions are necessary for a healthy community. Brian is an active member of Northfield’s board and commissions with years of service on the Citizens Climate Lobby, Environmental Quality Commission, and the City of Northfield Planning Commission.

As a participant of the Environmental Quality Commission, Brian assisted with Northfield’s Climate Action Plan – a two-year process that resulted in a roadmap toward mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. Brian states that the convergence of this plan with CAC’s goals was a logical next step in addressing community needs. He adds that there was an amazing partnership between the participants and that everyone played an important role in the success of the project.

Brian provided the design work for the three-building types and seventeen units and went through twelve iterations of site designs. While he had prior experience with energy-saving design, he states that – like any other technology – it changes rapidly. In working with the experts, Brian soon got up to speed in the area of high efficiency and sustainable design work. He took the same principles from the housing project and designed a nearby net-zero building and training center. He expresses gratitude for the builders that were able to come together and create a project that was both understandable and workable for future development. 

“It’s so important that we give time back, so many people worked hard to make this project successful.”

Merchants Bank

Charitable activities are vital to communities. Merchants Bank is excited to be a part of bringing emergency and affordable housing to Northfield.

Jodi Lawson, VP of Commercial Lending

The success of the Hillcrest Village housing project is due to the dedication and skills of hundreds of players and the money to pay for it through fundraising and financial backing. With over 37 years of experience in the banking industry, Jodi’s position as VP of Commercial Lending is critical in ensuring the project’s solvency from inception to the end of the loan. Merchants Banks’ involvement in the Hillcrest Housing Project began in 2021. Jodi stated “Due to CAC’s strong representation and community backing, it was amazing how everything came together. CAC’s programs benefit so many people. They take a project and get it done.” What most impressed Jodi is the number of donations and pledges raised by supporters. “There are many nonprofit organizations here” she stated, “Northfield is a community that helps those in need. We know that it’s important to help those having a tough time.”

Martha Larson, Community Advocate

I’m pleased to participate in the Hillcrest Village housing project – a visionary project that addresses environmental and social justice. The development is above and beyond sustainable building practices.

Martha’s background in project engineering and municipal management was the perfect fit to lead the energy subcommittee on Northfield’s Climate Action Advisory Board. Their efforts resulted in the development of the City’s Climate Action Plan. Hillcrest Village project’s vision perfectly aligned with the City’s goals.

Martha commented on how well everything came together, even with the varied perspectives of the different entities. The participants “pooled their knowledge and collaborated.” Martha talked about the guidelines for sustainable housing being adjusted for aesthetics and constructability. With data provided by the University of Minnesota, the group had the information required to push sustainable goals and achieve reliable construction and aesthetics. According to Martha, the outcome – and most considerable benefit – was “high-quality, sustainable and affordable housing supported by charitable and civic engagement.”

Martha is dedicated to helping Northfield to become a sustainable city leader. She said, “There’s an urgency in taking proactive climate actions. By creating housing, like Hillcrest Village, we can address economic, social and environmental issues all at once.”

Beth Berry, Community Advocate

I’m excited about the Hillcrest Village housing project because it’s a chance for kids to live in a stable environment to grow and do well in school – as education is the pathway for future income.

It’s said that “To give is to invest yourself in the life of someone else.” From her community fundraising efforts to the work done improving the conditions for all students to achieve, Beth Berry has a long history of giving of herself to better the lives of others.

Beth’s involvement in the Hillcrest Village housing project is motivated by her desire to intercede at an early stage with children. She’s seen the damage caused by the insecurity of homelessness. Bored with retirement, Beth became involved with the CAC board and assisted in the fundraising efforts of this project because it would provide a path to self-sufficiency. “Fundraising was successful because it was a team effort with buy-in from all involved.” Undaunted by the challenges of fundraising during COVID 19, volunteer community members stayed committed to the mission of Hillcrest Village, raising nearly $3,000,000 in 12 months.

“The vacancy rate for housing is at an all-time low, and those families in the greatest need may be overlooked because of an unstable rent history or poor credit. The Hillcrest  Village housing project will help break this revolving cycle,” said Beth. “The money raised will make a tremendous impact on providing individuals and families a safe and stable place to live.”

Back To Top