Barker group takes a look at Humphrey building

BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
PCC EDITOR

FORT MADISON – A familiar face has entered the fray to try and save another historic building in downtown Fort Madison.

Barker Financial Chief Financial Officer Kyle Galloway said he toured the Humphrey building with company President David Barker earlier this week. Fort Madison Mayor Matt Mohrfeld and two of the children of the late owner Bryan Humphrey, also met with the group.

The building at the southeast corner of Avenue G and 8th Street in downtown Fort Madison is now part of Humphrey’s estate. It has been in the city’s cross-hairs since the west side started to crumble onto the sidewalk in 2019.

The city took Humphrey to court over his inaction to sufficiently shore up the building and Humphrey was facing eviction as the issue worked its way through the court system.

Galloway said the situation is extremely preliminary, but he met with architects Thursday morning to try and get blue prints into a CAD system as a place to start for someone, even if it’s not Barker Financial.

“It’s very preliminary right now. David and I did come down and met with Ben (Humphrey) and Taylor (Humphrey Frietag) and toured the building,” Galloway said.

“There are some complications there, but from our perspective it’s a building near where we have apartments across the corner and the YMCA is right across the street. It’s a prime position.”

“And I have to tell ya, it probably has one of the best views of any building in Iowa.”

Galloway said Barker Financial, out of Iowa City, likes to try and preserve historic buildings, but it has to make financial sense. As with the other apartments they’ve renovated in Fort Madison, funding mechanisms like Community Development Block Grants and historic tax credits would all be part of the calculations.

“These buildings always need some form of outside assistance,” he said. “They never pencil out on their own merits. The other part is how broken the building is.”

At this time Galloway said architects are looking at original blue prints of the building to see what it’s going to take to preserve the 141-year-old structure in the heart of Fort Madison’s resurging downtown district. Finding the original blue prints was like finding a treasure, Galloway said.

“That’s huge and pretty rare to find in a building that old. We’re taking those and getting them into a CAD (Computer Assisted Design) file to have a place to start for someone,” he said.

“At the highest level, we’d like to be a part of the solution there. It’s certainly something we wouldn’t want to see bulldozed.”

Galloway didn’t get specific about what role Barker Financial is considering with the building, but calculating the costs of rehabilitation will be a big part of that decision. He said he didn’t get the sense on the tour that the building was unsalvageable and said the family would like to see it preserved.

“I could be way off on that, but that’s my gut,” he said. “It’s just an issue of if it pencils out with the cost of materials going crazy. And then, of course, any hidden surprises.”

The building would have to maintain retail space on the first floor, but Galloway said upper apartments would probably be the way to go for any developer of the building.

Fort Madison officials are holding off on any further legal proceedings while the estate works its way through the court system.

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