State grant to help West Liberty commercial/apartment project

WEST LIBERTY, Iowa – This Muscatine County community is getting a $200,000 grant to turn a historic building into commercial space and apartments.

The West Liberty Economic Area Development (WeLead) announced Thursday, May 12, that the building project is receiving an award through the Iowa Economic Development Authority’s Downtown Housing grant program. The program is awarding $20 million to support downtown revitalization through new housing opportunities in smaller communities.

The funding will help transform a vacant property at 317 N. Spencer St. The grant money will be combined with the personal investment of property owners and brothers Darren and Scott Brooke. 

The pair plans to convert the empty historic downtown building into commercial space on the ground floor and two three-bedroom apartments upstairs.

“This project is coming at the perfect time for our community,” said Ken Brooks, WeLead executive director. “West Liberty’s economy is booming, our storefronts are filled, our existing homes are at capacity, and local business and industry is expanding.”

Mr. Brooks, who joined WeLead last September, added that “With the elevated material prices, we are grateful to the IEDA for this grant opportunity.” 

The grant, he said, “makes this project financially feasible, and will bring critically needed housing and commercial space to West Liberty.” 

Built in the late 1800s, the property to be rehabilitated was one of the first brick buildings in the community – serving as West Liberty’s first auto garage. Originally a one-story building, a second floor was later added when the property was converted for use as a chick hatchery. 

The Spencer Street property also was used as a retail space for many years, and housed apartments on the second floor before being abandoned and falling into a state of disrepair, WeLead said.

The grant news comes on the heels of West Liberty Foods’ announced plans to expand its operations with a new state-of-the-art $150 million plant in town. 

WeLead also is working with local property owners and developers for the creation of several housing developments in and around the city.

Here are some other Quad Cities area projects funded by Iowa’s Downtown Housing grant program:

  • DeWitt: The Iowa Mutual building project selected for $600,000. The project centers on converting the former insurance building at 509 9th St. into 53 apartments.
  • Muscatine: Upper-story conversion project at 100 W. 2nd St. awarded $200,000. The project is creating two apartments.
  • Tipton: Upper-story conversion project at 524 Cedar St. will receive $200,000. Project is creating two apartments.

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