The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

February 21, 2014

New developers emerge

By Brenden West Assistant Editor
The Clinton Herald

---- — CLINTON — The windows at 217 Fifth Ave. South contain Jim Hobart’s vision for what the Wilson Building could become. They are sketches of 28 upscale apartments and a downtown business opportunity — a $7 million venture.

As of Monday, Hobart learned his ideas for the Wilson Building will no longer come to fruition. The Cedar Rapids-based owner of Hobart Historic Restorations was informed he is out of the running to own the structure, despite planning renovations for the last year.

“We did months and months and months of work on that building,” Hobart said. “It put a chink in our armor to find out they’re selling to someone else.”

He estimated he has already spent close to $300,000 on planning proposals and other expenses.

Todd Gillickson of Gillickson Group, co-owner of Taxl Holdings, officially holds rights to the building. In 2009, the group obtained the century-old property through a tax sale and received the deed in 2012. By that time, Hobart was part of an investment group called Frantz-Hobart, which initially put forward their plans to buy the Wilson Building.

When that relationship dissolved last November, Gillickson said purchase negotiations with Hobart fell apart.

“We were in a deal with Frantz-Hobart,” Gillickson said. “We were in discussions with Frantz-Hobart for a year and a half, and there were other developers too.

“Their dissolution was a little bit of the end part of our delay.”

Gillickson said multiple entities entered the discussion for purchase following the Frantz-Hobart split. He plans to announce a sale with another group by the end of the month. Future renovation plans from those companies were not discussed.

Before it dissolved, Frantz-Hobart had obtained a 95 percent tax increment financing rebate worth up to $1.26 million with the city of Clinton, which the council conditionally approved a year ago. The city had also agreed to cover up to six empty units for $800 per month per unit. The deal would have lasted 10 years if the property wasn’t fully rented out.

In November, Clinton City Administrator Jessica Kinser said the city would offer Hobart the same incentives if and when he owned the building. Hobart said in November that he hoped to finalize the purchase and city incentives early in 2014.

Until this week, Gillickson said Hobart was considered among the development finalists.

“There are a lot of moving parts to this,” he said. “It hasn’t been without work by both parties in different scenarios every week. We want a developer who will get this deal done.

“Our job is to find a developer and get this done.”

Meanwhile, the building is “secure” with no hazards within the facility, according to Gillickson. Taxl Holdings is negotiating with “multiple” developers.

While this week’s news was disheartening, Hobart said he isn’t discouraged from developing in Clinton. He is gearing up to tour other properties with prospects.