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Projects will leverage private investments to revitalize downtowns across the state.

L to R: Debi Durham, IEDA and Iowa Finance Authority Director Debi Durham; Dawn Larson, Executive Development Specialist for Fort Dodge; Addrea Groff, Tom Groff, owners of 13 N 11th Street; Kris Patrick, Executive Director main Street Fort Dodge; Michael Wagler state director main Street Iowa.

November 7, 2019 (DES MOINES) — The Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) today awarded Main Street Fort Dodge a $75,000 grant for the Fisher Block Annex Rehabilitation Project. Kris Patrick, Executive Director of Main Street Fort Dodge, Dawn Larson, Executive Development Specialist for Fort Dodge, and building owners Tom and Addrea Groff, represented Main Street Fort Dodge (MSFD) at the event held at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. Thirteen other Main Street Iowa communities also received grants that will benefit local improvement projects, including upper story renovations, critical building stabilization and façade restoration and upgrades. A total of $1 million was awarded during the ceremony."

Current appearance of Fisher Block Annex building

"The Challenge Grant program will allow the Groff’s to rehabilitate The Fisher Block Annex at 13 N 11th Street, a long vacant building in downtown Fort Dodge. Without this funding the building would continue to fall in decay," stated MSFD executive director Kris Patrick.

Tom and Addrea Groff purchased the Fisher Annex as phase one of the Fisher Block restoration. The first step will replace the roof and eliminate further water damage. The Groffs will develop both upper story apartments into functioning market rate units. Next will be rehabilitation of the façade on the store front and alley following historic standards. The third step will build out of a bakery space for Addrea’s successful homebased bakery. Lastly, they will white box the remaining store front. This structure and the adjoining 1100 Central are two of MSFD targeted buildings to rehab along Central Avenue.

Challenge grants are administered through IEDA’s Iowa Downtown Resource Center and Main Street Iowa programs. The funding will be distributed in the form of matching grants to the selected Main Street programs. The estimated total project cost of these 14 projects is over $3.2 million.

"If Tom and Addrea Groff did not step up and save this building, MSFD knows no one else would," remarked Patrick. For those who recognize quality of life as a major economic development variable, there is an important concept called the "Third Place." According to this approach, home is the first place and work the second. "Most of us need a third place to interact with other members of the community. Yummy Crumb Bakery can be the "third place" to many in our downtown encouraging other entrepreneurs to create other welcoming businesses in fort Dodge." Tom and Addrea have long time connections to the downtown. Both have parents or grandparents that had businesses downtown.

"The Main Street Iowa Challenge grants have been instrumental in revitalizing Iowa’s historic main streets," said IEDA and Iowa Finance Authority Director Debi Durham. "Reinvesting in our traditional commercial districts is good business. It’s good for our economy and good for our state. These projects will bring new businesses and new residents to our downtown districts."

Since the first Challenge Grants were awarded in 2002, approximately $10.6 million in state and federal funds have leveraged more than $59 million in private investment. Over the life of the program, 179 projects in 54 Main Street Iowa commercial districts across the state have received funding.

"Each project must provide at least a dollar-for-dollar cash-match," said Michael Wagler, state coordinator for the Main Street Iowa program. "In total, these projects will actually leverage significantly more than the state’s investment into bricks and mortar rehabilitation. This investment will have a significant economic impact within each district."

The Fisher Annex Project is using eight sources of funding. By using tax abatement, ADA tax credits and local incentives the Groff’s easily found bank financing to fill in the gap. The effort the Groff’s have given to the Challenge Grant process was a deciding factor in their award Collaboration by multiple groups has been key in moving this project forward, and we expect this coordination to continue as the project becomes a reality. The Greater Fort Dodge Development Corporation is instrumental in moving this project to fruition.

The City of Fort Dodge was involved in initial conversations with the Groffs relative to code requirements. At this initial meeting, staff encouraged the Groffs to reach out to Main Street Fort Dodge (MSFD) to learn more about available local incentives. Dawn Larson represented both the City and the Development Corporation. MSFD has assisted the Groffs in identifying and layering potential funding sources for this project. MSFD prepared the grant application and will continue to serve as the point of contact with MSI as the designs are refined.

Proposed improvements to the Fisher Annex Building

The building will be powered by electric-only; no gas lines will be installed. The replacement roof will be light- colored and Energy Star compliant heat-reducing material. Water lines will be run beneath the roof to be solar hot water ready – solar may be installed at a future date. Recycled and salvaged materials will be used in this project. The existing hardwood floors in apartments will be refinished; tile flooring will be installed in all the bathrooms and the commercial storefronts. There will be no vinyl or carpet used throughout the building. This will be a smoke-free building.

"Main Street Fort Dodge will use this project is an example of what can be accomplished when a local owner uses a variety of loans and grants to support highly visible improvements to the interior and storefront of 13 N 11th Street. By marketing their success and showcasing how an additional "tool" in the Design and Economic Vitality tool-box can renew their building’s economic life, other district owners should become less hesitant in reaching out to local government. "We will continue to engage broad base grassroots community support for Main Street’s mission, goals and objectives," remarked board president Jim Bird. "We will continue to work in partnership with local government to address short and long-term infrastructure needs and streetscape enhancements that convey a sense of vibrancy and community pride to better showcase building improvements. Façade improvements and adding housing to this area will encourage the city to work with Main Street to improve lighting downtown."

Tom is a prime example of a Webster County native that utilizes trade skills to stay in his hometown. "We believe through this process we can engage local government, financial and educational institutions (Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge) and other appropriate entities in efforts to identify, develop and access incentives and technical assistance for bricks and mortar skills such as tuck-pointing and other historic building rehabilitation needs," remarked Patrick.

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