Willard’s building receives $550,000 housing grant

T-R PHOTO BY ROBERT MAHARRY The city of Marshalltown will receive a $550,000 upper story housing grant from the Iowa Economic Development Authority to assist the developers in the creation of five apartments at the Willard’s building downtown.

The good news just keeps coming in downtown Marshalltown. Less than a day after it was announced the city would receive $500,000 in grants from the Iowa Economic Development Authority to restore 11 historic storefront facades, officials learned that the Willard’s building has been selected for a $550,000 grant to create five units of upper story housing.

“It’s always nice to get good news for grants, so to get two in one day is like, wow,” Marshalltown Housing and Economic Development Director Michelle Sponheimer said.

Region 6 Resource Partners led the application process for the second grant, which is also administered by the IEDA, and the total value of the project is estimated at just more than $1 million. Sponheimer said it fits into the city’s larger goals to increase affordable and market rate rental housing stock — three of the apartments will be considered market rate, and the other two affordable — and she can’t wait to see the finished product.

“This particular CDBG grant is a great opportunity to take buildings that are underutilized downtown and repurpose them,” she said. “Being able to take what’s essentially unused vacant space and turn that into active housing units adds a new energy, excitement and economic vitality to our downtown.”

Marty Wymore, the executive director of Region 6 Resource Partners, said the application took about 60 days to complete (the downtown facade grant application, by contrast, took almost a year), and he called the grant funding “essential” for making affordable housing possible.

“I’ve lived in Marshalltown for quite a few years, and it’s great to see some great progress. This funding will help to make a big difference in getting these buildings done and helping the appearance of the downtown area,” Wymore said. “It’s very satisfying for us to work on these deals.”

Willard’s Furs and Fashions officially closed its doors in April after more than 150 years in business. City officials and property owners Joe and Janelle Carter, contractor Peter Cutler and his brother, developer Scott Cutler, hope this project will breathe new life into the historic building with a foundation laid in 1864.

“These grants enable us to do these projects that we otherwise would not be able to do. It’s just so expensive to rehab an old building like that,” Janelle Carter said. “I know that this project is a catalyst for the downtown, and I knew we couldn’t do it without help.”

As part of a GreenStreets project requirement, $50,000 of the funding will go toward putting solar panels on the roof. The city is pursuing additional grant funds for a similar project at the neighboring Hopkins building, which the Carters also own, that would create 14 housing units. Carter hopes to commence construction sometime next year and added that the planning stages are well underway.


Contact Robert Maharry at 641-753-6611 ext. 255 or rmaharry@timesrepublican.com


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