NORFOLK, Neb. -- A section of Norfolk known as the Big Red Keno Area has now been deemed blight and substandard.

The designation came Monday night during Norfolk's city council meeting. While Big Red Keno is a part of the area studied by JEO Consulting, its building is not the focus of the study. Instead, the name comes from the company Big Red Keno, which requested JEO to perform the survey. 

According to Jeffery Ray, who was representing JEO, the goal of the survey was so Big Red Keno could take the first step in creating affordable housing close to the Big Red Keno building on Pasewalk Ave. If the area was declared blight and substandard, it would allow Big Red Keno to qualify for tax-increment financing (TIF), which is needed to move development of the their project forward, officials said.

Ray says he understands the designation can sound harsh, especially to residents of the area, but it is the term necessary to receive TIF. Norfolk Mayor Josh Moenning also agreed the term had an ugly connotation with it, but that the study has proven the area qualified to be declared blighted and substandard.

"Typically these blight studies...are driven by redevelopment plans," Moenning said. "I think because a lot of the things...presented to us, there is justification for this area being declared blighted and substandard. It's kind of an ugly phrasing...but that is a state law definition and this is how the process of implementation of TIF works."

During Monday's meeting, Ray also pointed out why the surveyed area met the qualifications to be declared blight and substandard. JEO found that 9 of 12 criteria were found to reach blight conditions including street layouts, age of structures, and more. The study also identified that 45% of buildings in the area are deteriorating. 

The study was approved unanimously by the city council 8-0.