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Fort Dodge seeks King’s help

‘It’s an ambitious project’

-Messenger photo by Bill Shea
U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, looks out an upper floor window in the Warden Plaza Monday afternoon. King toured the vacant building as Fort Dodge officials made their case for a federal grant to help pay for a nearby intermodal hub.

A hike up eight flights of dusty, debris-covered stairs in the Warden Plaza Monday afternoon gave U.S. Rep. Steve King a firsthand look at the insides of the battered downtown edifice.

The Republican from Kiron and a handful of local officials ended up on the roof of the building at 908 First Ave. S. and got a sweeping view of the city and pondered the possibility of a rooftop restaurant there someday.

King got the tour Monday as Fort Dodge officials, led by Mayor Matt Bemrich, explained the plans for renovating the Warden Plaza, creating a new cultural and recreation center down the block, and building a new intermodal hub between the two.

The local leaders also asked King to support their application for a $7.63 million federal Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development grant to help pay for the $11.5 million intermodal hub.

Following the tour, King described the project as “worth doing.”

-Messenger photo by Bill Shea
U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, left, talks with Fort Dodge Mayor Matt Bemrich on the roof of the Warden Plaza Monday afternoon. Bemrich led a tour of the vacant building as city officials touted their application for a federal grant to build an intermodal hub next door.

“It’s an ambitious project,” he said.

King said the financial figures used in the grant application are sound and conservative.

“Now it’s time to go to Washington and make our case,” he said.

King cannot make the decision on whether or not Fort Dodge will get the grant. But he can submit a letter of support to the U.S. Department of Transportation officials who will make the decision, and assist local officials as they make their case for the grant.

City leaders will learn on Dec. 18 if the grant will be awarded.

-Messenger photo by Bill Shea
First Avenue South in downtown Fort Dodge is seen from the roof of the Warden Plaza Monday afternoon. The Fort Dodge Municipal Building is to the left; a wing of the Warden Plaza is to the right.

If the grant is awarded, construction could begin in 2020 and be done in the spring of 2021.

Bemrich has described the intermodal hub as the “glue” that would connect the Warden Plaza and the cultural and recreation center.

To make room for the intermodal hub, the Wahkonsa Annex, which is the light-colored building on the east side of the Warden Plaza, would be demolished, along with the building that houses TC Mae’s on First Avenue South.

South 10th Street near First Avenue South would remain open to traffic, with a portion of the intermodal hub crossing above it.

The facility would have parking spaces for about 500 vehicles. Some of those spaces would be reserved for residents of the Warden Plaza. Others would be reserved for those using the cultural and recreation center and still others would be reserved for employees working at the Carver Building, which is just north of the site. The rest of the spaces would have parking meters.

-Messenger photo by Bill Shea
U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, left, and Fort Dodge Mayor Matt Bemrich pry open a door leading to the roof of the Warden Plaza Monday afternoon. King joined local officials for a tour of the vacant building that is the subject of a major proposed renovation.

Part of the dispatching and ticketing operations of Dodger Area Rpaid transit would be moved into the facility. The bus stop and transfer point now at Central Avenue and Ninth Street would be moved there.

A rack full of bicycles to rent would be placed in the intermodal hub. It is intended to be the first component of citywide bike share system.

KDG LLC, of Columbia, Missouri, plans to renovate the Warden Plaza to create commercial space on the first two floors and 80 to 150 apartments on the upper six floors. The cost of the project has been estimated at $35 million.

The planned cultural and recreation center would be on First Avenue South near 12th Street. It would include swimming pools, a running track, exercise rooms and a black box theater that could be set up in different ways to accommodate various performances. The cost of the new center has been estimated at $37 million.

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