Apartments open in former Iowa Inn

Henry Stout: Downtown building will help fill need for senior housing
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Note: this copyrighted article appeared in the Dubuque Telegraph Herald, article by Erin Coyle.
Ray "Harpo" Hutchinson on Thursday morning sat in what once was a gymnasium.
New carpet, windows and paint have transformed the room into a bright residential area. Only a portion of the original Young Men's Christian Association's dark wainscot remains in the room, which will serve as a common area for residents of the Henry Stout Senior Apartments.
The interior barely resembles that of the Iowa Inn, the last residential facility that operated inside the building located at the corner of Ninth and Iowa streets. One- and two-bedroom apartments have replaced the boarding house's single rooms.
People soon will be able to reside in apartments on each side of the former gymnasium. No one was allowed to live in those areas when Hutchinson managed the Iowa Inn.
"It was condemned," he said of the building constructed in 1894.
Its condition and that of an adjoining building, constructed in 1916, declined with time. The city closed the boarding house in 1997 because of safety concerns.
At that time, city officials started searching for developers to transform the buildings into apartments for low- to moderate-income residents.
MetroPlains Development, LLC, of St. Paul Minn., stepped in to rehabilitate the building in 2000. A number of financial backers supported the $4.3 million redevelopment rather than risk seeing the brick buildings razed.
"There is now way we could have built a new construction in downtown Dubuque for seniors," said Michelle Kaiser, assistant vice president with MetroPlains.
But the developers' marketing study showed the number of senior citizen households could grow at a rate of 77 per year between 2000 and 2005. MetroPlains constructed 33 apartments in the renovated buildings to accommodate the growing elderly population.
"The redevelopment of the historic buildings provided needed housing for seniors," said Scott Fitzpatrick, Iowa housing manager for Heartland Properties, Inc. Heartland, as subsidiary of Alliant Energy Co., provided nearly $3.5 million for the $4.3 million redevelopment.
The facility now is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
"This (facility) was the first (YMCA) chapter in Iowa," Kaiser said.
With that in mind, the developer chose to save the brick buildings for low-income residents age 55 or older, especially for those with fond memories of the facility.
"The older you get the more you cling to your old memories," said Sue Busko, who signed on as the first resident.
More than her memories of dancing to Elvis Presley songs in the YMCA's gymnasium convinced her to take on a lease. She needed an apartment that would accept her cats.
"For senior people, especially people who do not feel good like myself, a pet is so important," she said.
Although she cannot move in until Sunday, she said the bright apartments already have a homey feeling.
Sunlight now filters through the buildings' large windows as if none were covered with boards nearly two years ago.
"I am glad they fixed it up," Hutchinson said. "A lot of places get torn down."

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