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Century-old building will open soon with new renovations

BY ABIGAIL MEIER | DECEMBER 17, 2013 5:00 AM

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As half of the drywall peels away from the inside of the Grossix Building, the material beneath exposes almost a century of historical structural value of the downtown Iowa City establishment.

Community members admired the nearly completed renovations on Monday as officials announced the coming of a retail store to that space. Tailgate, a vintage-style clothing line, will enter the bottom floor in February 2014.  The second and third floors, which are nearing completion, will be remodeled into apartments.

“The view from the top and the design of the building vitalizes the Iowa City area,” said Vera Gross, the owner of the Grossix Building, 30 S. Clinton St. “A lot of this area was used for storage, but now you have two really great places to bring to Iowa City and bringing more people to the downtown area.”

Iowa native Todd Snyder created Tailgate in his father’s basement in 1997, and he has partnered with national brands such as Nordstroms, American Eagle, and Urban Outfitters. An official with the Downtown District said there an increasing need for a business such as Tailgate in the area.

“There is a high demand for retail downtown,” said Nancy Bird, downtown district executive director. “[Gross] took her time in finding a tenant who can service the community as well as the students.”

Gross’ family has owned the 1860 building for the past 28 years. In 1985, her mother opened Gilda Imports — a furniture, glass, china store — in the building. In the past three years, the building has been empty.

The renovation is the sixth of eight projects the Downtown District has supported to restore the structural value of the buildings.

A Downtown District initiative called Iowa City Building Change Program, which began last spring, has supplied Gross with $43,629 for the installation of a sprinkler system and improvements to the building’s façade. The total cost of the renovation is $700,000.

Iowa City economic development coordinator Wendy Ford said the goal of the initiative is to renovate storage space to create offices, apartments, and retail stores as well as bringing more business to downtown. Ford said the renovations will improve accessibility by updating building requirements.

“We would have loved to have an unending pot of money to assist the business owners,” Ford said. “But the project will help business owners see what their second floor could become.”

The Grossix Building is one of eight Iowa City buildings receiving funding for improvements with aesthetics, safety, and energy efficiency.

“As you peel back the dry wall, it exposes this beautiful material,” Bird said, as she pointed to the crumbling brick hidden beneath the drywall. “The key behind renovating the older buildings is to help owners invest in them to restore their historical characteristics.”

Ford said after the Grossix is done, six of the eight buildings in the program will be finished. This coming spring, Atlas, 127 Iowa Ave., and the Yacht Club, 13 S. Linn St., will see renovations for new sprinkler systems and accessibility improvements.

As the initiative comes to the final stages, Bird said, many downtown business owners will continue to renovate the buildings.

“We hope there is more of this to come,” she said. “We are going to try our best to help the owners to renovate back to their original design.”


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