OSKALOOSA — A million dollar project is transforming the facades of historic buildings in downtown Oskaloosa.
Oskaloosa Development Services Director Andrew Jensen said there is a variety of funding sources for the Facade Improvement Project, which includes 16 buildings in the city’s downtown area.
“The largest is a community development block grant through the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA),” he said. “The city has used tax increment financing for the project. We received a grant from the George Daily Family Trust, and property owners are contributing 25 percent of the project costs.”
The initial discussions for the project go back over two years, Jensen said, but the work really began in July of 2016. Architectural and environmental compliances were worked on through the winter. Construction got underway in Spring of 2017.
“The contractor will be working really hard from now until the end of the calendar year for sure. There’s some performance things in the contract, to get substantially complete 66 percent of the buildings,” he said. “We know that the majority of the buildings are going to get done this year. And then all the buildings and the whole contract has to be wrapped up this fiscal year, which is June of 2018.”
Community members are excited about the project, Jensen said, including property owners of the three completed buildings.
“We still have a few things that we have to touch up on those buildings, but it’s really good,” he said. “And there aren’t often these types of opportunities where 75 percent of the project costs are paid by outside sources, which is just tremendous for the project owners.”
The city worked closely with the state historic preservation office as well as the local historic preservation commission, Jensen said, to ensure all the work meets high standards for historic preservation.
“So what we’re getting is a lot of investment in these exterior facades in a historical way that really adds to the character of our downtown,” he said.
Jensen said humorously one of his fears is that people are going to forget how bad the buildings used to look
“You just kind of forget that ‘Oh yeah, they were all boarded up’ and looking pretty bad,” he said.
Jensen said he recently drove by 113 North Market street and saw the tuck pointing, the new bricks and new windows.
“I looked at that and was like ‘Oh yeah that’s pretty nice’ and I was like ‘wait, no, that’s amazing.’ If I remember what it used to look like, it used to look terrible,” Jensen said. “And now it looks like the building ought to look.”
The renovated buildings have had positive effects already in the downtown area, Jensen said.
“Just from a couple different small projects and discussions that I’ve had with others in the downtown, I already see how having significant investment can encourage others, neighboring properties to reinvest in sprucing up their buildings,” he said “I think it even carries on more than just these particular buildings; there are some spill-over effects; people just wanting to keep their buildings looking nice, which I think is positive for our downtown.”
Herald staff writer Angie Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @OskyAngie
Contributing funds to the Facade Improvement Project
City of Oskaloosa: $300,000
Community Development Block Grant through IEDA: $500,000
George Daily Family Trust: $119,750
Property owners: $1,172,936
Breakdown of costs
Asbestos/mortar testing: $12,100:
Architect fees: $87,839:
Grant administration: $40,000