Differences of opinion on former Compadres building

City Council
By: 
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

The City of Monticello is working with Jones County Economic Development in the pursuit of grants to assist in the cleanup and rehabilitation of the former Compadres building (103 W. First St.). 

Economic Development Director Derek Lumsden spoke to the Monticello City Council during their Jan. 20 meeting to offer insight into two different state grant programs: the Catalyst Grant and the Derelict Building Grant. 

To date, the city has conducted a commercial building inspection, a structural inspection, an asbestos inspection, and a Phase I Environmental Assessment all on said property. 

The council directed City Administrator Doug Herman to obtain a cost estimate for demolition of the building, one of the many options available to the council concerning the future of the site. Estimates could be between $450,000 and $550,000. 

Herman said grants are available for such a project, should the council choose this route. 

Lumsden and Herman are working on applying for a Catalyst Grant for up to $100,000 to renovate the property, rather than demolish it. The Derelict Building Grant would award up to $50,000. Both grants would require a city cost-share of $50,000. 

While the council approved of the submission of both grants, there were many questions about the structure and future of the property. 

“The demolition numbers are too high,” remarked Mayor Brian Wolken. 

Lumsden said if successful, the city could use the Derelict Grant as the city’s match toward the Catalyst Grant. 

“Both grants work well together,” he said of their intended use. 

If the city were to be successful in designating the downtown as an historic district, Lumsden said there could be even more grants available. 

In addition, if the city wanted to include upper-story housing within the property, housing grants are an option too. 

However, he warned the council that many of these grants are timely and quite competitive. 

Lumsden provided the council with examples of projects in local cities that were successful in obtaining grants for large projects such as the Compadres building. Cascade received two Catalyst Grants for two separate building rehab projects. Anamosa received one for a building devastated in their downtown fire. Oxford Junction used the Catalyst Grant for an old building in its downtown with commercial use on the lower level and housing on the upper level. Lumsden said if successful, then Monticello would have two years’ time to use the funding. 

Council member Dave Goedken asked Lumsden and Herman to offer an estimate on the rehab of the Compadres building. Lumsden said while that is something he’s working on for the grant applications, he offered another route the council could take. Rather than completely finish the building, he suggested stabilizing, securing, and white box the building, so that anyone who purchases the building can finish it the way they want. 

“We’d be left with a useful building versus two open spots,” said Wolken. “The city can market it and try to sell it.” 

Lumsden explained the Catalyst Grant program only awards a government entity, but prefers to see the building in private hands following the rehab work. 

Goedken still had some reservations. 

“It looks like a money pit,” he said. “I want to stick in the least amount of money as possible.” 

“Our other options are to tear it down or let it set as it is,” said Herman. “The community wants us to do something with it. We don’t have a whole lot to lose. I think we have a good shot at the Catalyst Grant. I’m not sure there is a better option than to try and get these grants. That’s our best option at this moment.” 

“It’s hard to see the future because you’re looking at it as it is now, not what it could be,” added Lumsden. 

“We could market this property versus having another greenspace downtown,” commented Council member Gary Feldmann. 

In other city business: 

• The council approved the appointments of Denny Gray, Denny Fear, and Dave Tobiason to the Soldiers Memorial board.

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