CLINTON — One more piece to the Wilson Building funding puzzle fell into place this month when developers received downtown revitalization money from the Iowa Economic Development Authority.
The funding was announced last week, Economic Growth Corporation Vice President Jon Davidshofer said Monday, “So that was obviously really good.”
Economic Growth Corp. is pulling together all of the sources of funding it needs to close on financing, and Davidshofer is optimistic.
“Things are pretty good right now.”
Economic Growth should hear in November if it will receive a state historic preservation tax credit, “an important part of closing.”
“[We’re] still working with other members of the development team,” said Davidshofer. “We continue to have good dialog with all of those members.
“It’s such a complex transaction,” said Davidshofer. “We won’t be able to do anything until funding is pulled together.”
The historic Wilson Buildings, from 211 to 219 Fifth Ave. South in Clinton, were designed by John Morrell & Son, and completed in 1914. They were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014.
The Wilson family owned and operated one of the largest industrial steel companies in the country and was well respected in Clinton County as Clinton Bridge & Iron Works, according to documents filed with the National Register.
The success of the Clinton Bridge & Iron Works under George E. Wilson led his son, George E. Wilson Jr., to start his own real estate development company. They built the Wilson Buildings using the family’s structural steel.
The buildings are an example of the Chicago Commercial Style and Classical Revival style of architecture. The architects were prominent and respected commercial and residential architects in the Clinton area from 1904 to 1953, the National Register says.
JC Penney occupied the building at 219 Fifth Ave. South until 1999, and later an antique store resided there. The building changed hands several times before landing in the lap of Economic Growth.
In 2015, the City of Clinton entered an agreement for private development with Economic Growth Corporation. It amended and restated the agreement in 2016. Economic Growth did not meet its minimum improvement dates, and the two parties amended the agreement in December 2018 with a new deadline of Dec. 31, 2019. Again, the improvements were not completed.
The city approved a new development agreement with the owners in April, placing it in the Downtown River Lyons Urban Renewal Area which, according to City Administrator Matt Brooke, will give the city more flexibility for grants and incentives.
The city hopes the $12.5 million that Economic Growth invests in the building will result in a minimum assessment of $3.5 million upon completion, Brooke said in April. The minimum assessed value is important because the city will receive tax dollars based on it.
The project will bring 32 residential apartments to 219 Fifth Ave. South, a majority of those at market rate, according to Davidshofer. About 20% of the units will be marked for tenants at 80% of median income, which is $40,000 to $44,000 in Clinton, he said.
On the first floor of the building, Economic Growth will create incubator space in which entrepreneurs can start new businesses. The retail and kitchen space will allow businesses to grow their customer bases before moving to their own locations.
“We’re so excited,” said Davidshofer. “The impact it’s going to make in Clinton ... is going to be monumental.”
Economic Growth Corp. is still planning to begin renovation of the building by the end of the year, “Just because, the sooner the better,” Davidshofer said Monday. “We still plan to have construction completed by the end of 2021.”
Economic Growth Corporation has put a significant amount of money into the project, Davidshofer said in April. This is not something the investors can walk away from, he said.
The project requires “a considerable amount of construction,” said Davidshofer. “We do have to have a lot of the things stay in place, like the beautiful marble tiles right there when you walk in,” Davidshofer said. “But that’s OK. We want to preserve the building.”
Davidshofer thinks a revitalized Wilson Building will lead to more downtown development. “We think it’s really going to be great. It’s a catalytic process.”