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Carnegie Library: SOLD

Old Fort Dodge library to get new life as apartments

January 24, 2008
By BILL SHEA, Messenger staff writer
The old Fort Dodge library that was a magnet for generations of readers is about to become a place where people will eat, sleep, and, yes, curl up with a good book.

Mike Doyle, of Fort Dodge, just bought the landmark at 605 First Ave. N. and revealed plans to turn it into a nine-unit apartment building.

He said Wednesday that the renovated building will be ‘‘a nice complex, a nice place to live.’’

‘‘It’s just too nice of a building to sit empty,’’ he said.

Doyle promised that the 105-year-old building’s exterior will remain unchanged to preserve its historic nature. Certain features inside, such as the fireplaces, cornices and plaster work will also remain untouched, he said.

The building has been mostly vacant since Nov. 30, 2000, when it closed in preparation for the January 2001 debut of the current library by the City Square.

Doyle bought the building from the Roger F. Cook Trust, which was represented mainly by Bruce W. Cook, of Newport Beach, Calif. Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

Plans for the renovated building should be done in a month, Doyle said. Once those plans are ready, construction will take about eight months, he said.

According to information presented to city officials, each of the nine apartments will cost about $60,000 to create, for a total investment of about $540,000.

Each apartment will encompass about 1,100 square feet.

Nine single space garages will be constructed behind the library.

Rent will be in the range of $600 to $700 per month, according to Doyle.

Based on his current experience with downtown apartments, he doesn’t anticipate much trouble finding tenants. About five years ago, he built the Rosedale Apartments at the corner of First Avenue North and Third Street. Every unit there is full, and he said he gets phone calls daily from people asking if there are any vacancies.

The office from which he manages his construction company and the apartments is in the old Rosedale Creamery building on First Avenue North. Every day, he drives past the empty library on his way to and from the office. Seeing the edifice sitting forlorn and empty all the time inspired him to act.

‘‘The library needs something to be done with it,’’ he said.

On Wednesday, the city’s Enterprise Zone Commission gave the apartment project a boost by recommending it for some state tax breaks. That action makes Doyle’s venture, Carnegie/Rosedale Apartments, eligible for a 10 percent income tax credit and a refund of all Iowa sales, service and use taxes paid during construction. The Iowa Department of Economic Development will have the final say on awarding those incentives.

‘‘I’m excited about this, ’’ said Councilman Don Wilson, who heads the Enterprise Zone Commission. ‘‘This is what we need to revitalize the downtown.’’

Commission member Duane Amhof said the new apartments will help meet ‘‘one of the major needs that this community has.’’

The library opened in 1903, largely as a result of a $30,000 gift from steel industry tycoon Andrew Carnegie, who awarded grants for libraries across the United States.

Henry G. Koch, of Milwaukee, Wis., was the building’s architect. Northwestern Building Co. of Minneapolis, Minn., was the general contractor.

The building cost $47,293. It was dedicated on Oct. 12, 1903.

In 1929, the second story was added to to help correct a continually leaking roof.

With passing years, the library’s needs outgrew the building. Construction of a new library was considered starting in 1989.

After a failed referendum attempt in 1994, city voters approved borrowing $2.6 million for a new library in 1998. That vote was key to building the new library, which was paid for with public and private money.

When construction began, city leaders began looking for a fresh use for the old building. It was considered as a site for the senior citizens center, the Curious Kids Museum of Fort Dodge and the Webster County Museum Association. Plans from those groups were all withdrawn.

Finally, in October 2003, the Roger F. Cook Trust entered a deal to buy the building from the city for $60,000. The trust had plans to place professional offices, a museum of Midwestern history and an event center there. Those plans never became reality, though.

Young At Art, the arts program run by state Rep. Helen Miller, D-Fort Dodge, rented space in the building for a few months in 2005 and 2006. But the building has been essentially vacant ever since the library books were moved out.

The Cook Trust put the building on the market in 2006.

Contact Bill Shea at (515) 573-2141 or

Article Photos

Fort Dodge Carnegie Library, 605 First Avenue N., was built 1903 and closed its doors in 2000. Mike Doyle purchased the building with plans to renovate it to feature nine apartments.

Fact Box

Carnegie Library time line
• 1903 — Carnegie library opens with a $30,000 grant from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation.
• 1929 — Top level added to the library
• Nov. 20, 2000 — The Carnegie Library closes its doors and the Fort Dodge Public Library opened in Jan. 2001.
• 2001 — Building considered as site for Fort Dodge Senior Citizens Center, Curious Kids Museum of Fort Dodge, Webster County Museum Association. All the proposals were either withdrawn or rejected.
• Oct. 13, 2003 — City Council gives preliminary approval to selling the building to Roger F. Cook Trust.
•Feb. 2, 2004 — Sale to the Cook Trust finalized.
•Sept. 2006 — Cook Trust places the building on the market.
• Dec. 2007 — Mark Doyle purchases the landmark to make into a nine-unit apartment building.



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