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Historic building opening soon

BY MEGAN SKUSTER | OCTOBER 03, 2013 5:00 AM

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Despite surpassing its anticipated completion date, officials say the remodeling on the bottom floor of on historical building downtown will be finished in the next couple of weeks and an unannounced retailer will occupy the space.

Since late February, the Grossix Building, 30 S. Clinton St., has been under construction to improve design, safety, and usability of the space.

“I’ve been able to do an update and remodeling of the building,” said Vera Gross, the owner of the building. “It allows it to compete at modern levels instead of [having] a lot of wasted space.”

At about a $700,000 price tag, improvements to the building included a remodeling of the first-floor retail area, the conversion of the second and third floors into apartments, addition of storage space in the basement, improved lighting, roof access for workers, an intercom system, and a rooftop deck.

Officials previously told The Daily Iowan the project would be completed by Aug. 1. Gross said delays involved sewage and electricity complications.

As of now — in addition to the soon-anticipated completion of the retail space — the high-end, loft-style second- and third-floor apartments are anticipated to be completed by mid-November. They will have all new appliances and private storage rooms in the basement. Exact pricing is still uncertain.

An Iowa City building improvement initiative that is currently underway supplied funding for part of the project — giving Gross $43,629 for the installation of a new sprinkler system and improvements to the façade. These changes include new windows, new paint, and a new, separate entrance for the apartments housed in the building.

“We wanted the area by the windows on both floors to have as much exposed brick as possible because that’s a real focal point,” Gross said.

The Iowa City Building Change Program, which began last spring, gave funding to eight Iowa City Businesses for improvements to aesthetics, safety, and energy efficiency.

“It’s expensive to maintain old buildings,” said Community Development Coordinator Steve Long. “That’s why we wanted to step in with a little bit of a boost.”

While the Grossix building is old, it has a rich history.

Several retailers, including the Hawkeye Bookstore, have occupied the space since it was built in the early 1860s. Construction unearthed several artifacts left by previous renters, including receipts for book orders from the Davenport School District from 1891, letters, and pictures. Gross plans to take these items to the State Historical Society after the project is completed.

Gross’ family has owned the building for the past 27 years. Her mother opened Gilda Imports in 1985, but for the past couple of years, most of the building has been empty. The second and third floors were only used for occasional storage.

Other Iowa City businesses, including Active Endeavors, Bo-James, and Panchero’s, have completed renovations through the Building Change program.

“We have received praise over how nice it looks,” said Leah Cohen, owner of Bo-James restaurant. The funding also helped remodel her building’s façade.

Tracy Hightshoe, Iowa City’s community development planner, said she hopes they receive funding to continue it in the future.

Long said he believes the Grossix building will benefit from the remodeling.

“The building [that was there before] had been under-utilized for many years,” he said. “We like to see all buildings used to their fullest potential.”


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