City commits $75K to gift building, moves forward with CDBG application

The Jefferson city council approved the use of $75,000 in TIF funds as the match to a Jefferson Matters: Main Street “Challenge” grant for the rehabilitation of the building it owns at 205 N. Wilson.

The grant would be used to reconstruct a traditional storefront, to clean and repair or replace the stucco, and to install new windows on both stories of the building and a new door.

City administrator Mike Palmer, who is also a Jefferson Matters: Main Street volunteer, and Jefferson Matters program coordinator Peg Raney are both confident the grant will be funded.

The city was given the building earlier this summer, along with $5,000 to use in clean-up. At that time, Palmer said the goal was to get the needed repairs done within a $5,000 budget and then market the building.

“We learned $5,000 doesn’t go very far,” Palmer said Tuesday after the meeting.

If the building is sold, proceeds would go back into the city’s housing or general fund, Palmer said. There has been no study done of the building’s marketability.

The Jefferson Matters: Main Street board and the city council hope that renovating the building would serve as an example of what the restoration of historic downtown buildings could result in, and hopefully prompt other building owners to do similar projects.

Community development block grant: In a related matter, the city council approved moving forward with an application for a community development block grant (CDBG) of up to $500,000 for downtown fa├žade improvements. The city would provide up to $250,000 in matching funds, with the remaining matching funds coming from the owners of the businesses involved.

The council approved an agreement with Region XII Council of Governments for technical and professional services in preparing the grant application. Cost to the city for the services is $500.

CDBG funds are federal funds from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development granted by the Iowa Economic Development Authority. To date, the program in Iowa has made awards totaling approximately $20.5 million, leveraging more than $16 million in local match and improving more than 700 buildings.

Fred Kester of Region XII COG will work with the project. He has asked for the support of 15 downtown business owners in the project. Raney said she has spoken to 11 property owners to date and that all are in support. Building owners must grant an easement to the city of the front 18 inches of their building for up to seven years to be eligible.

Jefferson Matters volunteers have visited Manning as an example of a small town that has successfully used CDBG funds to rehabilitate its downtown. According to Raney, Jefferson is one of only a few towns in Iowa in which all four sides of a downtown square are still intact. “We take that for granted because we see it every day, but in a lot of towns, buildings on at least one side of been torn down. What we have is something special,” she said.

The grant application is due in mid-January and notification of an award will be made next spring. Construction would likely not begin until 2017.


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