Barker moving forward with more downtown housing

The building that housed the former Bookmark and The Avenue and is now home to the YMCA and Olive Branch Jiu Jitsu is in line for possible upper story renovations by Barker Financial LLC. Courtesy photo

BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
PCC EDITOR

FORT MADISON – More upper story apartments are in the works for historic downtown Fort Madison.

Barker Financial, LLC, which has more than $1.5 million in downtown property, is trying to secure a Community Development Block Grant through the city to restart work on the upper floors of the building at 802 Avenue G.

Kyle Galloway, Chief Financial Officer with Barker said this will be a smaller project than three others the Iowa City company has completed in Fort Madison, but he said there is a chance these units could be two-bedroom apartments.

Barker’s stepped in to complete the Old Lee County Bank upper floor housing and also has completed the Cattermole Library at 614 7th Street – two projects that were left in the city’s hands in 2016. They also purchased the Kingsley Inn properties and renovated that space in 2020.

“It’s a smaller project, just an upper story above where the YMCA has the first floor,” Galloway said Tuesday. “That building was gutted by fire in the 70s so this is going to be tough project. I’m still not sure it’s going to work, but we want to try it.”

Galloway said they would like to put four 2-bedroom apartments above where the YMCA has a satellite cardio workout center and Olive Branch Jiu Jitsu are located.

“We don’t have too many two-bedrooms so this will be a bit different for us.”

The city is voting Tuesday night to set a public hearing for Aug. 17 on the application for Upper Story Housing Conversion from the Iowa Economic Development Authority’s Community Development Block Grant program.

Barker is a little further along with the project and had an architect draw up plans almost two years ago for the upper floors of the building.

“We’re pretty far down that path, and sometimes these things just don’t work,” Galloway said.

“This one is really tricky. That fire really did some damage to the upper story and it kinda just got slapped back together. But we’re gonna try and make it work. We’d be looking at high ceilings, big windows and some more great views of Fort Madison.”

He said the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has a big push for this kind of housing and the CDBG application is the place to start. But historical tax credits will also be a big part of funding the improvements.

The city has seen plans for the project and an estimate has been secured through Schickedanz Construction for the work. Galloway says now it’s just a matter of it making financial sense.

“The CDBG application is due by the end of August. We would need the historical tax credits to make it all work. With those you have to go through the historic renovation process and we have some experience with that, but it all takes a while,” he said.

“Best case scenario would be to hopefully start to lease those spaces a year from now. I don’t anticipate that happening, so the spring of 2023 would be fine, too.”

The $1.5 million in property valuation under the Barker Financial umbrella in Fort Madison carries $31,000 in annual property taxes.

The building on Avenue G was sold to Schickedanz Construction in 2017 for $50,000 and then sold to Barker in 2018 for $55,000. It had been owned by Doyle Hoyer as part of the Bertha Hoyer Trust before being sold to Schickedanz.

The Avenue and The Bookmark occupied the ground floor retail space prior to the sale of the building.

Barker Financial is owned by David Barker of Iowa City. Barker is former economist for the Federal Reserve, served on the Iowa Board of Regents, is an Iowa Republican Party official, and is a published author.

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