Wilson School project on horizon Brummer building remains an issue

Wednesday, November 28, 2018
Cherokee Wilson School

The nettlesome issues concerning two large, vacant downtown Cherokee properties remain problematic for the City, but the proposed remedy for one is on the horizon.

City Administrator Sam Kooiker recently met with the Cherokee Historic Preservation Commission and its members inquired about possible further developments on the Brummer Building (101 E. Main St.) and Wilson School (100 E. Willow St.).

Kooiker maintains that the Brummer building is going to become a significant challenge for the community unless the owner (former Cherokee resident Lynn Knight) becomes more involved soon.

“It is our hope that the property owner will become more active in the effort to promote the building for rent or sale,” emphasized Kooiker.

As for Wilson School, the City has been informed by proposed developer Shawn Foutch’s attorney that they will be filing the ownership paperwork the week of January 16, so Foutch will have access to the building by February.

Shawn Foutch, a developer from Johnston, has laid out a proposal to rehabilitate the former Wilson school building into rental housing as a historic renovation project. He estimates the building can be rehabilitated into approximately 24 apartments ranging from studio to 3-bedroom units. He estimates the project will cost approximately $3 million and will have a final residual value of $1.5 million under normal taxation as a commercial rental property.

Foutch is in the business of saving historic structures and turning them into residential properties. He said he sees a big funding gap regarding the Wilson School project, but there are tools out there such as tax abatement, an Iowa Workforce Housing application, and a commitment of funds from the City.

Foutch’s summarized proposal includes:

1. Parties enter into a development agreement. 2. City to go through a process to acquire the property and sell to Foutch for $1.00. 3. City agrees to support applications for tax credits, etc. 4. Foutch agrees to comply with applicable codes, ordinances and laws. 5. Foutch will have a signed agreement with the neighbors to the north. 6. City will help financially with $350,000 toward the project if the building can be rehabilitated, $400,000 if the building has to be demolished, with a payment of $50,000 to start the process. 7. After analysis if the result is that the building does not qualify for state tax credits and funding sources for rehabilitation are not available, Foutch will be responsible for demolition. If it does qualify for tax credits, Foutch will continue with financial applications and legal and accounting as well as design work and the City will contribute another $50,000 toward these efforts. 8. If feasible to go ahead with the rehab, Foutch will set up financing and work with the City to make sure there is clear title. 9. Foutch obtains clear title. 10. Upon completion of the project, Foutch will operate the property as a multi-family residential rental property for a minimum of five years before selling it.

If the project comes to fruition, it would help alleviate a serious housing shortage in Cherokee, especially critical as Iowa Food Group begins operations in the former shuttered Tyson Foods Plant here, and plans to employ more than 500 at peak production.

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