Buffalo61 owner said city’s growth plans make real estate here a good investment
BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – A man known to most for his comfort food and cold beer now has a hefty stake in real estate in Fort Madison.
Chase Gibb, the owner of the Buffalo61 Bar and Grille in Fort Madison purchased School House Apartments in the 1800 block of Avenue F from Todd Schneider several weeks ago.
Gibb said he and Schneider came to terms fairly quickly on a $2.2 million purchase agreement.
He closed on some Burlington properties at the year’s end, but had been talking with Schneider about the Fort Madison apartments since October on a tip from a real estate agent.
“It’s an impressive building, but it wasn’t a traditional real estate transaction because there were so many grants and tax credits involved in how Schneider funded the project,” Gibb said.
Schneider used historic tax credits to refurbish the former Fort Madison Middle School, as well as took advantage of some energy credits when he had solar panels installed on the roof of the building and the carports to help offset utility costs.
“There were a lot of hoops we had to jump through with the Iowa Economic Development Authority because there are still five years of regulations and rules I have to follow as far as renting the apartments to people who meet income thresholds,” Gibb said.
Gibb said he has property managers who handle the day-to-day operations and considers himself more of an investor.
“I started investing in real estate about 10 years ago. I didn’t discuss it a lot because it’s passive income for me. I’m a big believer in diversifying investments. And what I’ve learned over time is, and I love the restaurant business, but you have to be very hands on in that game and I can do that now,” he said.
“But in 10 years I don’t know if that’s something I’ll still want to be as heavily involved in.”
Gibb said real estate was more of a hobby in the past and was fun, but now he can take the returns on that initial hobby, and become more ingrained in the market.
He said right now he has about 90 apartments in Fort Madison and Burlington and has other opportunities in the works, especially in Fort Madison.
“I read all the time and pay attention to what’s going on in Fort Madison, even though I live in Burlington,” he said.
“I’ve been impressed with the way the city of Fort Madison is trying to grow. The marina, the projects downtown, and the mayor saying he wants to bring 1,000 people to grow the population. When you see other people locally investing in their community like that, it makes you feel safe investing in that community, too.”
Gibb said the School House Apartments are fully leased with a waiting list. But he doesn’t know what he will do with the gym.
He said he may let it sit for a while, but he wants to look at possibilities with other groups in the community that could use the facility.
‘The floor’s still good, everything’s in good shape and there’s some historical tax credits that might be available to develop this for the community,” he said.
“I could just rip everything out and build storage units for the tenants. I could do that. But these chairs are still comfortable, the stage is in good shape. I just think there’s a use for this, I’m just not sure what that looks like yet. I don’t need to make money off this, but what could I do to help with Fort Madison’s growth plans.”
He said groups like Old Fort Players could be someone he would like to connect with, or non-profits to use the large space.
“Here you go. Keep it nice, do something nice with it, and I will lease it to you for $1 a year as long as you don’t disturb a tenant.”
He said there will be some improvements made to the exterior and some clean up.
Gibb said he’d like to improve on the exterior lighting and would like to eventually put some garages on the property, but wants the construction to fit the historical character of the building. He may pull the tennis courts and basketball courts out to add the space for garages.
“I don’t want to create an eyesore so we’ll want to keep it looking nice for the neighbors.”
He also said he wants to offer occasional tours of the tunnels in the basement. There is a series of low tunnels that move through the basements and around the base of the building that a lot of people haven’t been able to experience yet.
“Everybody wants to see the tunnels. I’ve heard the stories. It’s really kind of neat and there’s still a lot of stuff stored down there.”
But with the apartments completely leased out and a waiting list for additional tenants, Gibb is turning his sights on additional real estate ventures in the community, and what that looks like only he knows.