DeWitt lofts project selected for Downtown Housing grant

DEWITT, Iowa – A project that will convert office space into loft housing in downtown DeWitt is among dozens of Iowa projects recently selected to receive money through the state’s Downtown Housing Grant program.

The Iowa Mutual Lofts project is among the grant recipients announced by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds. The project is converting the former Iowa Mutual Insurance building at 509 Ninth St. into more than 50 studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units. 

Ms. Reynolds recently announced a total of about $20 million in investments to support downtown housing projects in 61 communities. The Downtown Housing Grant awards provide support for downtown revitalization through new housing opportunities in communities with populations of 30,000 or below.

“An adequate housing supply is the lynchpin to attracting and retaining a healthy and flourishing workforce,” she said in a news release. “The investments announced today will not only provide 466 Iowans the opportunity to live near where they work but they will breathe new life into dozens of underutilized facilities in our communities.” 

The Downtown Housing Grant program will provide $600,000 to the Iowa Mutual Lofts project and help it move forward, Angela Rheingans, executive director of the DeWitt Chamber and Development Co., told the QCBJ on Wednesday.

“This is a project that is very much supported by the community. … The grant will help (the lofts project) remain financially viable,” she added.

The former Iowa Mutual Insurance Building was built in 1924 to house the insurance company. The building has been vacant for about two years since Iowa Mutual merged with Encova.

Bush Construction of Davenport is converting the building into lofts. Work on the 43,340-square-foot building is scheduled to be done this fall.

“The redevelopment project includes over 50 apartments, on-site parking, covered parking, lower-level storage, a gym, movie room and more. Construction is expected to be completed in the fall of 2022,” according to the Bush Construction website.

Some of the other Iowa projects receiving grant money include: a former middle school in Jefferson will be converted into 25 rental homes; and an historic brewery in Cascade that has sat vacant for the past 25 years will create 10 new rental homes. 

“This program provides a unique and transformative opportunity to both revitalize our communities and increase our housing stock across the state,” the governor added. “Communities have answered the call for unique and inspiring housing projects, and I look forward to seeing them come to fruition.”

The program had $20 million available for awards and received 94 applications requesting $31 million in funding. Projects were scored on a competitive basis on criteria including project appropriateness, funding and partnerships, impact on housing in the community and population size.

The Downtown Housing Grant Program is a part of the governor’s $100 million investment to increase the supply of housing options and protect and expand housing opportunities for Iowans to live in or near the communities where they work. The funds are made available through Federal American Rescue Act State and Local Fiscal Relief Funds.

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