BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – They’re all in.
Jim and Melanie Cobb, formerly of Utah and now residing in Nauvoo, purchased the Lodi Shopping Center a couple months ago and have plans to re-energize the strip mall on the city’s west side.
The Lodi, which will now be known as The Plaza at Fort Madison, has slowly become a quiet place of empty storefronts minus Tena’s Tap and Rent-A-Center.
But the couple has purchased the building, spoken with several economic development and chamber officials in the city, and are working to bring it back to life, including the 5,500 square foot banquet hall behind Tena’s Tap.
The center also has Rent-A-Center taking up three units and Casebine Community Credit Union still on lease, but those are the only three tenants as of right now.
Melanie said there are 24 units total with five taken up and another store coming in January, leaving 18 units left to lease.
She said City Building Director Doug Krogmeier has been out to look at the property and is aware of the plans the Cobbs have for the building.
The two have also spoken with city economic development and chamber officials about some of the more pressing needs.
Melanie said she’s hearing child care, meeting spaces, and even some additional franchise restaurants are what people are telling her the city needs.
“I have spoken with Ryan (Wilson) over at the YMCA, and I’m very anxious to help the city with what they need. I’ve spoken with Savanna (Collier) at the Chamber and gotten some reports and some ideas of what we can put in here that Fort Madison needs,” Cobb said.
The couple is originally from St. George, Utah, but has recently transplanted to the Nauvoo area where they recently purchased a home. Their investment partner, Brian Christiansen, has already bought property in Nauvoo.
“He bought the Woodruff Hotel and the Family Inn and Suites and then we’ve started branching out a little bit since then. We were looking around and found this little mall and we thought, ‘This is great and we can really help the community bring some business in and start that up and again,” she said.
“We know we need a child care center and everyone is telling us we need a Jimmie Johns.”
Jim is a general contractor and Melanie is a licensed realtor so they aren’t new to properties and real estate development.
Jim said he is currently having a gas line brought to the property from the north side of Avenue L. He also is having the furnaces replaced and putting in more energy efficient LED lighting.
The strip mall is located in an incentivized Opportunity Zone. Opportunity Zones were created as part of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and are designated for economically disadvantaged areas that can offer powerful tax incentives to investors willing to invest capital in the zones.
The incentive is to allow the private investors to defer capital gains taxes on the earnings until Dec. 31, 2026, while at the same time seeing possible earnings in an Opportunity, or “O” fund, which, depending on how long the investor leaves the money in the fund, could result in no capital gains tax on the earnings in the fund. The initial money rolled over into the fund would be subjected to capital gains rates at the time the fund is sold.
If an investor leaves the money in the O-fund for a minimum of 10 years, there would be no capital gains tax on the money earned in the fund, minus the original investment.
“The investment is long-term, it’s not a short term being an Opportunity Zone. But the longer you hold the property, the longer the investment runs,” Jim said.
“We aren’t here to pay to fix it up and then turn it. We’re here for the long term.”
He said the move to the area took a little longer than they anticipated. They wanted to have some of the facade work done this fall, but now they will turn to the interior renovations through the winter.
The Cobbs said they are willing to work with entities that are looking for spaces and want to start at 0 or if they are interested in customizing the units, or those ready to move in.
Jim said it’s important for people to know that the center is now under new ownership and they are excited to begin working with the community and businesses to get people back out to the west side.
Melanie said she’d like to get the banquet room modernized and back open for community events, receptions, and other gatherings.
“I’d like to do that because it’s one of those community things that I keep hearing we’ve lost here,” she said.