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Area cities receive derelict building grants

Clarion, Humboldt, Lake City, Manson and Rockwell City were among 12 small Iowa cities that received grants from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to tear down or renovate abandoned buildings.

The Derelict Building Grant Program helps rural communities with populations of 5,000 or fewer to remove environmental hazards, improve community appearance and minimize costs by recycling and reusing building materials through deconstruction or renovation of derelict buildings.

The matching grants gave over $143,000 to the five area towns. Here’s how the funds will be spent.

Clarion

Clarion received $69,923 for deconstruction of a downtown building off Iowa Highway 3 that has been abandoned for years. The building, between Edward Jones Investments and what was formerly called Wright County Abstract and Land Title Co., has started to affect its neighbors, said City Administrator Clint Middleton.

Since the tear-down will leave a gap in the downtown scene, the city will construct a “pocket park” using bricks from the old building that can be used for informal gatherings and outdoor movies, music events and other arts or entertainment.

The tear-down should be finished by this winter, with construction of the new park estimated to start next year.

Humboldt

The city of Humboldt received $14,300 for asbestos abatement on the city’s former post office. The site will be used for commercial sales expansion after asbestos is removed from the building’s tile, windows, roof and pipes.

The old building on Taft Street North, built in 1955, has been vacant for close to 15 years, said City Administrator Travis Goedken. The city of Humboldt, like many others, is leveraging the grant to help spur redevelopment.

“With redevelopment in smaller communities, you have essentially the same costs as development in bigger communities, but without the same return,” Goedken said. “A building doesn’t have the same value here as it does in West Des Moines, for example. That’s the struggle.”

By leveraging grants like this one, the city can encourage investment in town that retains the character of old buildings while keeping remodeling costs closer to what it would be to build from scratch.

The city has received a proposal from two investors to turn the old building into a brewery.

Lake City

Lake City received $5,000 for asbestos abatement of an old car dealership.

Manson

Manson received $34,975 for asbestos abatement and renovations of the building at 1012 Main St., which used to be Foley’s Clothing. Renovations will include roof replacement and replacement of an interior basement floor beam.

The building, built in 1900, has changed hands a few times since Foley’s moved to Fort Dodge, said Mayor Dave Anderson, and was occupied by small businesses.

“We just want to make sure we provide needed retail space without closing our Main Street,” Anderson said.

Anderson said the new, renovated building could potentially host several businesses, and that some have already expressed interest in the retail space.

The building will be listed for sale when renovations are complete. The property was deemed in violation of Manson’s nuisance ordinance in 2019, and awarded to the city.

Rockwell City

Rockwell City received $25,187 for renovation of a 1920 building on the north side of the town square, on Main Street next to First Community Bank.

“It’s been vacant for quite some time,” said Mayor Phil Heinlen. “It used to be Joe’s Candy Kitchen. Old Joe had every type of candy in that window.”

More recently, it was a photography studio.

The city sold the property to Jonathon Wetter for $1 after he proposed to renovate the building back to the nostalgic look it had when it was a candy shop.

A timeline submitted by Wetter proposed that construction would start this summer and be complete by the end of 2021. Wetter plans to use the building for three hotel rooms, two apartments and a finished ground floor for retail or business use.

Remodel estimates came in at $386,000.

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