BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Congressman Dave Loebsack said Friday, projects like Fort Madison’s upper apartment restoration work take full advantage of federal community grant money and are good for revitalization efforts.
The U.S. Representative from Iowa’s 2nd district toured the upper apartment projects currently underway by Barker Financial Inc. of Iowa City. He toured with Kyle Galloway, CFO of Barker, subcontractor managers including Dan Rice of Walker Coen Lorentzen of Iowa City, Louis Bolding of Schickedanz Construction, and Tim Gobble of Fort Madison Partners.
The congressman said projects like this that utilize Community Development Block Grants and other funding mechanisms usually trigger a lot of private infusions of funds and that’s what makes the program so beneficial.
“This is really fantastic. they’ve taken advantage of a few federal grant programs like the CDBG and federal historical tax credits because that area is on the federal register of historic places,” Loebsack said.
“To be able to take advantage of those programs is wonderful. CDGB in particular leverages local private investment like what we’re seeing here. I don’t know what the the ratio is going to be here, but every dollar, in the places I’ve been, leverages a minimum $3 from the private sector,” he said.
“In some places like Davenport, in particular years it’s leveraged $11. Those programs are under assault now in Washington D.C. I think they more than pay for themselves, they’re great for economic development and I’m going to do all I can to make sure we continue those programs and continue to fund them.”
With both the old Lee County Bank and Cattermole in full construction mode, new wiring, supports, framing and foundations can be seen on all three floors of the old Lee County Bank building.
Galloway said Barker is shooting for “substantial completion” by the year’s end of both those buildings.
“I think we’re on schedule. I didn’t always feel good about this project, as far as getting it done on time, but we’re in good shape now,” he said.
Rice, who said he was happy when Barker reached out to them to help with the projects. His firm was part of the work being done when Frantz Community Investors out of Cedar Rapds was overseeing the projects in years past but abandoned the projects without completing them.
“We were part of the Frantz team. We were brought in half way through back then and that was a challenge in itself,” Rice said. “And then to go through the project disappearing and failing was tough. “Luckily these guys came to us because we were familiar with the buildings and it allowed us to recoup some of those costs.”
The Sears building at the corner of 7th and G, is also being considered for renovations by Barker, who currently owns the building. Galloway said that project is on hold while the other projects are being completed.
“We want to support Sears as well as we can, but it didn’t work to do all three at once. These were, frankly, easier, that building has some challenges.
Because of the emotion and frustration with the Frantz group, Galloway said Barker has tried to keep a lower profile out of the gate and as the work continues.
That’s where I try to promise very little because of that history. That was a real mess and lots of people got hurt on that. Lots’ of promises were made, and I want to go the other route. We’ve been intentionally keeping it quiet but we’re full go now.”