The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

June 27, 2013

Wilson building project still moving forward

By Katie Dahlstrom Assistant Editor
The Clinton Herald

---- — CLINTON — Although it might appear that progress has stalled on the Wilson Building, officials with the historic renovation company Frantz-Hobart say they are diligently working to procure the Clinton landmark.

Cedar Rapids-based Frantz-Hobart told members of the Clinton City Council on Tuesday the reason the public hasn’t seen any of the progress on the $7 million renovation project is because of issues with the building’s title.

The building was sold through a tax sale to Taxl Partnerhsip #4 out of Davenport in 2009. The deed to the property was transferred to Taxl from Bill Twyford last September. Frantz-Hobart financial partner John Bradley said tax certificates are often complicated, but he estimates Frantz-Hobart will own the building at 217 Fifth Ave. South within 30 to 60 days.

The delay in purchasing the building will push back the time Frantz-Hobart has slated to have tenants in the building to July or August of next year.

Despite the seeming lack of movement on the project, Frantz-Hobart is actively engaged in securing the building, CEO Mike Frantz reiterated in an interview with the Herald. Frantz said his company has already invested $50,000 in the Wilson Building in title searches, environmental investigations and other processes.

“We’ve never not gotten it done from this point,” Frantz said. “We are so committed to this building and this city and we will continue to work within the guidelines that we can. Patience is a virtue here. “

Frantz-Hobart plans to turn the building into 30 market-rate apartments with street-level retail space. In order to complete the renovations, the company uses state and federal historic tax credits, which Frantz said the company has locked down.

“It’s a little bit more painful with all the title issues and securing the historic tax credit funding, but it’s worth it,” Frantz said. “The advantages of what we do is revitalizing downtown. Historic renovations are much more complicated, but the results are palpable.”

The council in February conditionally approved a 95 percent tax increment finance rebate not to exceed $1.26 million over a decade. Frantz-Hobart would need to prove it has paid taxes in order for the taxes to be rebated. This rebate would leave the city with $19,000 in property taxes annually.

Rather than an upfront cash incentive, the city will provide a “backstop” cash incentive to be used only if the development was not rented at 100 percent. The city would be responsible for up to six units for 10 years at $800 per month per unit. The maximum risk for the city in providing the backstop would be $576,000 over the course of a decade.

These incentives will not officially be approved until Frantz-Hobart has purchased the building and cannot be approved until the urban renewal plan for the area that encompasses the Wilson Building is amended. On June 11, the council set a public hearing to amend the central business area urban renewal district to include the Wilson Building.

Following the public hearing, the amendment will come before the council on July 9 for adoption.