BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – State officials are now shopping the former Iowa State Penitentiary property to developers across the country.
Last summer, meetings were conducted by Mead & Hunt, Inc., out of Madison, Wis. with community members consisting of business, government and economic development officials to get a picture of what the former prison could look like.
After those meetings, representatives of Mead & Hunt, who were contracted by the State of Iowa, helped prepare a comprehensive historical study of the retired facility and submitted it to the state.
Lee County Economic Development Group’s Dennis Fraise said the resulting study is more than 1,200 pages long. But with the study in hand, state officials are now looking for requests of interest from potential developers who have ideas in what can be done with the property.
“The biggest thing is that now the Department of Corrections and the Department of Administrative Services are working together to craft a Request for Interest to developers,” Fraise said Wednesday.
Fraise has attended several meetings with state officials in Des Moines about how the facility can be repurposed. He said the prison is spending more than $1,000 per day on the facility in its current state.
“This is exciting,” Fraise said. “The local warden (Patti Wachtendorf) is involved and a lot of people were involved in those meetings. I’m very pleased with how rapidly this has progressed to this point. The state is fully engaged with looking at an adaptive repurpose, but they’re being careful, too, which we appreciate.”
Ideas that came out of the community meetings in the summer focused on retail and housing that could take advantage of the location and history of the property. Fraise said he didn’t think that a the property would be suitable for a large scale manufacturer.
He said he’s encouraged by the progress, but the process will not be a quick one.