This bank building in Cascade is one of the projects.

Eighteen Iowa communities are getting grants of $100,000 from the Iowa Economic Development Authority to redevelopment of buildings under the Community Catalyst Program. Jim Thompson oversees the new program which has a simple goal.

“Communities select a building that’s in need of remediation that will not only serve as an economic catalyst — thus the name — but also serve as an example to other property owners that are adjacent. To be able to see that economic activity can happen, even in the smallest of towns,” Thompson says. The program is open to all communities, but the rules require 40 percent of the grants to go to those with populations of less than 15-hundred residents. Fifty percent of those size communities that won grants in this first year.

“Smaller communities have less capacity,” Thompson says, “and it’s not just always in dollars. Sometimes it’s in administrative function and in leadership. So, we have been really working hand-in-hand with these communities as applicants for these buildings.” Fifty-three communities applied for the program and 18 received the maximum $100,000 award.

“One unique thing about this program is that it did not require any local match — although it was scored competitively against the other applicants based on their match,” Thompson says. “So, it didn’t’ have to be just a cash match. We also allowed communities to come up with an in kind contribution.” He says communities provided the in-kind match in a lot of ways, such as waiving building and other permit fees.

He says they allowed the communities to be creative and some are supplying trucks and labor to help renovate the buildings. Thompson says some of the projects are already in the works and are paying off.

“I look at a project like the city of Pocahontas. They had a vacant Odfellows building and they were able to recruit a dentist on the first floor in a downtown location and they are actually going to improve all floors of the office building and they are actually going to be able to serve patients right in their downtown location,” Thompson says. He says the program saves old buildings that may’ve been torn down and turns them into something that creates new things.

“We really did look at preservation as an economic development tool. So, we wanted these projects remediated in a way that was appropriate to the building and to the downtown,” according to Thompson. “And when you do that and can make them economically feasible — boy it makes a great example in a community.” The communities have two years to complete the projects.

Here are the projects and their total costs:

Bellevue: rehabilitate Old Button Factory with public restrooms, welcome center and a business development center ($1,789,600.00)
Brooklyn: rehabilitate the Brooklyn Opera House ($2,233,310.00)
Cascade: restoration of the Old Bank Building 1st floor business improvements 2nd floor 2 apartments ($257,500)
Clarence: rehabilitate the Clarence Motor Company Building façade restoration, 2 storefront improvements, office space. ($430,174)
Clearfield: rehabilitate 300 Broadway 1st floor for business development 2nd floor apartment and 2 rentable overnight rooms ($190,000)
Dyersville : rehabilitate Riverfront Landing Brewery with a Tasting Room, Event Space: redevelope the sewing factory building ($620,000)
Grinnell: rehabilitate Fourth Avenue Beyer Block Exterior Improvements creation of 6 residential units & 2100 sq. ft. commercial ($1,888,700)
Hawkeye: West Main Street Opera House Project Exterior Façade Rehab, Commercial space rehab & apartment rehab ($188,500)
Jefferson: rehabilitate Odd Fellows Building & Software Development Workforce Training Initiative ($1,706,667)
Keota: rehabilitate the Ramsey Building 1st floor Law Office, 2nd floor two apartments ($430,150)
Lenox : rehabilitate the Bunn Jewelry Building Mexican Restaurant & Woodworking Shop with four apartments upstairs ($571,000)
Maquoketa: rehabilitate110 S. Main Street Façade rehab 1st floor commercial build out & two 2nd story apartment ($300,000)
Mason City: rehabilitate B & O Building 2 commercial bays rehabed & 4 apartments 2nd floor($339,648)
McGregor: rehabilitate The Sullivan Opera House: Bringing quality downtown housing & shopping ($756,000)
Pocahontas: rehabilitate the Oddfellows with façade improvements, New Dental Office & 2nd floor banquet hall and office space ($920,000)
Stanton: rehabilitate Historic Mason Building Mixed Use Renovation Adds Downtown Living & Additional Business Spaces ($284,000)
Stuart: rehabilitate. Hotel Stuart: 1st floor restaurant Upper level hotel suites ($761,964)
Zearing: rehabilitate 108 N. Main Street Façade rehab, windows, two 2nd story apartments ($200,000)

Ackley, Eldon, Mapleton, Northwood and Oxford Junctione each received community technical assistance planning grants of $5,000 each.