OSKALOOSA – Phase II of the Downtown Facade Project is off to a great start with one of six buildings’ masonry work already completed and another building’s masonry is almost completed.
The masonry work on Smokey Row at 109 S. Market St. was completed at the end of October and now construction on Enchanted Gifts’ masonry is 50 percent completed. The upper story windows on the side of the building are beginning to be replaced, according to Oskaloosa’s development services director, Shawn Christ.
Phase II of the project started Aug. 2019 and should be completed by July 2020.
The work being done on the buildings apart of this project are similar to that of a facelift – a very important facelift.
“We’re not just doing simple remodels or adding touch-ups. It’s more than that where we are. The term that we use is we’re eliminating what they call ‘slum and blight,” Christ said. “So we’re taking care of the immediate needs on the building. That’s the reason why we’re doing the brick repairs, the tuck pointing to solidify the structure and make sure that the structure itself is being taken care of appropriately and in a way that’s historically appropriate. So we’re taking care of the structural repairs, windows, doors and then the storefronts themselves.”
Funding for the Downtown Facade Project comes from both city and federal funding. The facade project has brought in a million dollars to the city in outside funding.
“It’s something that we’re doing with not just local funds, but it’s federal funds as well. They’re paying for half the project, the construction costs of the project. We were able to bring in, so far, a million dollars to the city of Oskaloosa of outside money, which I think is very significant.”
Ann Brouwer, co-owner of a residential building apart of Phase II of the project said its great that the city is assisting with the costs of repairing and preserving the buildings.
“I think it’s critical, because these downtown buildings require a lot of investment and, generally speaking, it doesn’t make sense cash flow wise to do it. I’ll be honest. In order to stimulate these buildings to be improved or maintained, I think the city investment is a great thing,” she said. “I mean it’s a fine line between the owner has to be responsible for their property and the city wanting to have a nice Historic District. So it’s a good partnership, I think, in making that happen. But I think, because of the fact that it’s very difficult to make cash flow after doing work, that it’s important.”
In order to receive the Community Development Block Grant, the grant used to pay for the project, buildings had to meet certain qualifications. To assist with determining what buildings qualified for the project, the city sought help from Area 15 Regional Planner Brad Grefe. Area 15 assists with grant writing and completing the administration work that needs to be done.
“There’s a list of qualifications you just basically rate it [the buildings] for fair, good or excellent condition. If they are either fair or poor condition, they qualify for the grant,” Grefe said. “You look at the mortar condition, you know, is it missing mortar? Was the wrong mortar used? Are the upper story windows deteriorating? Are they broken? Are they missing or are they boarded up?”
All of these things, plus more, are taken into consideration when determining what builds qualify for the project. From this assessment, the findings were presented to the city and business owners who then determine if they would like their property to participate in the project as they were required to put up 25 percent of the funding on their respective buildings.
The second phase of the projects is currently set to be completed by July 1, 2020, with weather days taken into consideration. If the project is not completed by that day the construction company awarded the project, Cornerstone Commercial Contractors, Inc., will be penalized.
“So under our contract, the way it’s set up right now, is the project should be substantially complete by July 1 of 2020,” Christ said. “I think there are certain allowances for weather days in there, but the project should be completed by that date. If they don’t meet that deadline, then there would be what they call ‘liquidated damages’ and I think those damages can be up to $500 per day If they go past that completion deadline.”