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Historical building to spark renovations

BY LILY ABROMEIT | FEBRUARY 03, 2014 5:00 AM

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Historic preservation and renovations on MidWestOne Bank in downtown Iowa City is moving along as expected, and officials said they hope the project will increase interest in similar projects across the downtown area.

“I [would like to see] a lot of the property owners commit to those structures because of the character and history that goes along with them,” said Nancy Bird, the executive director of the Iowa City Downtown District. “The historical properties make downtown Iowa City who we are.”

Kent Jehle, executive vice president and chief credit officer for MidWestOne Bank, said the project is in the first of four phases and is scheduled for completion in late summer 2016.

The tower, along with the building south of the tower, are the main areas under construction. Jehle said the final estimates for the projects hover around $12 million.

Jehle said he thinks it is important to continue to preserve the integrity of the building because it was built in 1912.

“We view the tower as a historical aspect of Iowa City,” he said “We want to make it look like it was when it was originally constructed.”

Jehle also said he thinks renovations and updates are in the best interest of the company.

“I think it makes a statement, it shows a commitment from MidWestOne to downtown Iowa City,” he said.  “We wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing without the thought process ‘We’re here for the long-term’ … and it shows that, and it will be a historical statement piece of downtown.”

Bird said she is pleased with the commitment shown by the bank.

“Sustainability starts with preservation, so I think it’s really important that they’ve continued to invest in that property as their headquarters,” she said. “It’s also a good example … for others to see what an older building can look like when it’s restored … and hopefully lead the way into other investments in other properties.”

Jeff Davidson, the city director of planning and community development, said he is “thrilled” at the initiative the bank has taken, not only with the downtown building but also with construction in Riverfront Crossings District.

“We think the district is a great place, and one of the things we want to do is keep employment there,” he said. “It’s exactly what we want to see [because] they’re good, high quality jobs, so were really delighted they’ve made that commit to the district of Iowa City.”

Davidson said he hopes the project will attract the population officials hope to establish in Riverfront Crossings.

“I’m sure there will be a few students, but we think there is going to be a building quality that will attract officials and maybe some retirees,” he said. “It’s a great project that will lead to more progress.”

The renovations to the downtown building will also attract a new and different population, he said, which will beneficial to the area.

“Having people working downtown creates a lot of economic vitality,” he said. ”These are people who use the city’s parking and bus system, walk and bike downtown, shop in the stores, eat lunch, and live downtown … it helps keep downtown more of a 24-hour, 7 days a week kind of place rather than and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. place, which is what a lot of other downtowns are like.”


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