Senior complex nears completion

Former Iowa Inn: 7 apartments are leased
 
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Note: this copyrighted article appeared in the Dubuque Telegraph Herald, article by Erin Coyle.
Sawdust floated through Dubuque's second YMCA gymnasium, at the corner of Ninth and Iowa streets, while a contractor sanded a new wooden banister on Monday.
Contractors are polishing off the newest layers of the Henry Stout Senior Apartments this week, rolling out rose-hued carpet to transform the one-time YMCA into affordable apartments for low-income renters age 55 and older.
Seven of the facility's 33 apartments have been leased so far. The property's management company expects interest will pick up after the $4.3 million redevelopment project is completed later this month.
"We are expecting a lot of activity at that point," said Cathy Koerperich, property management specialist with Horizon Management.
"We are expecting the first move-in to happen on Wednesday, July 24," she said.
That will be the first time in nearly five years that the two buildings, then being operated as the Iowa Inn, a boarding facility for single men, will provide housing.
But Donna Morris, housing administrator for Ecumenical Housing, Inc., questions whether there is sufficient interest to justify another senior-housing facility in the downtown area, especially one with rents ranging from approximately $250 to $500. The Ecumenical Tower, at 250 W. Sixth St., offers low-income housing for about $370 per month.
"I have five open units at this points out of 89. I have not had the (Ecumenical) Tower full in two years." Morris said.
"The needs is not as great as it used to be."
But MetroPlains Development, the St. Paul, Minn-based for-profit development firm specializing in restoration projects that redeveloped the Henry Stout apartments, commissioned an August 2000 market survey that shows Dubuque could use more affordable senior housing. The vacancy rate for low-income senior housing projects at the time of the study was less than 1 percent. It concluded that the project likely would draw tenants from other facilities waiting lists or from elderly household growth of 77 per year.
"There is a need all across the state for high-quality affordable housing for Iowa's older population," said Monica Fischer, public information officer for the Iowa Finance Authority.
Recognizing that need in 2000, the finance authority allocated 10 years of tax credits for the Henry Stout apartments renovation. By purchasing these federal tax credits, Heartland Properties, Inc., which is an Alliant Energy Corp. company, invested about $3.5 million in the redevelopment. Heartland Properties main purpose as a company is to invest in affordable housing.
"It is a wonderful opportunity to bring the past and the future together." Through the revitalization of downtown Dubuque, said Lisha Coffey, spokeswoman for Alliant Energy.
"The building was an eyesore. It was a detriment to downtown-revitalization efforts," said David Harris, director of housing and community development for the city.
But MetroPlains restored the historic buildings that Henry Stout gave to the YMCA, earning the new apartment facility a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.
The buildings have stood empty since the city vacated them in 1997.
"The problems got to be so intense down there," Harris said.
More than reported robberies and graffiti raised safety concerns. Many of the rooms were closed off because of housing-code problems until the managers quit. Unfortunate timing prompted the city to vacate the building's boarders on Christmas Eve 1997.
"For a variety of reasons, we took a real active role in trying to turn this thing around," Harris said.
The city allocated about $165,000 to the project through low-interest loans. Private partners will repay those loans and the redevelopment's other costs.
"We got a wonderful deal out of it," Harris said.

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