BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The Iowa City firm that resurrected the rehabilitation of two of Fort Madison’s oldest downtown buildings will be recognized for its work at a ceremony Tuesday in Des Moines.
The three-year renovation of the Old Lee County Bank building and the Cattermole Library by Barker Financial out of Iowa City is getting an award from the 1,000 Friends of Iowa as part of the group’s 2019 Best Development Awards.
The projects tied for Best Mixed Use projects and Kyle Galloway, Chief Financial Officer for Barker Financial, said he was surprised by the recognition.
“I think Dan Rice with RDG Construction saw the value in the project and submitted it. It’s an incredibly well-done project and some really good work,” Galloway said Wednesday.
“I didn’t know anything about the award until today.”
According to release from the 1000 Friends of Iowa Tuesday, the work is inspiring other activity in Fort Madison’s Historic District.
“Fort Madison’s Downtown Commercial Historic District included the Lee County Bank, built in 1893, and Cattermole Library, built in 1894. Both sat vacant for many years. Barker Financial Group rehabilitated and renovated the exterior and interior of both buildings, leading to a renewed downtown area.
“The two upper floors of the Bank were transformed into 14 apartments while the lower floor was left mostly unchanged. The Cattermole Library was also converted to apartments on its upper floor while the lower floor is offices, with the original library circulation desk as the reception desk. Now fully occupied, the buildings are inspiring other activity in the historic district.”
Galloway said there is a waiting list for the apartments and both commercial first floors are now full as well. Schickedanz Construction, who was the contractor for the both the projects has set up an office on the first floor of the Cattermole, while a photography business and a non-profit are in the bottom floor of the bank building.
Fort Madison native Wes Holtkamp has been hired as Barker’s point man in southeast Iowa with office space in the building as well.
Galloway said the combined $4 million projects just received final approvals from the National Park Service and Historic Preservation offices. Funding came from a combination of Community Development Block Grants and Barker financing. The project also qualified for several historic tax credits.
“It worked like its supposed to work. There were lots of complexities as the process was going on, but that’s what makes them special,” Galloway said. “It’s a done project and it feels good to see it complete.”
The Barker group also owns the building on the southwest corner of 8th Street and Avenue G that houses the Olive Branch Jiu Jitsu studio. Galloway and Holtkamp have worked with the YMCA and it’s director Ryan Wilson to convert that commercial space into wellness centers.
“We bought that building 24 months ago and I think from my standpoint, its an amenity for the apartments, and fits in with restaurants, bars and movie theater,” he said.
“You add the work out facility to all that stuff downtown and that makes it more of attractive place to live as well.”
Galloway said Barker’s is are financial investors first and foremost, but they do pride themselves on being able to help out when they can.
“It’s not our primary focus, but the plan is to continue to evaluate potential products in southeast Iowa and Fort Madison is the epicenter of where we started.”
The group has also put money into renovating The Kingsley Inn and now that property is a fully functioning hotel. The facility was originally thought the be better suited for Air B&B clients, but Galloway said 99% of the reservations are from people just calling in.