City Council action boosts Wilson School project

Friday, September 13, 2019

In a 13-minute meeting Tuesday night, the Cherokee City Council passed a Resolution Amendment Approving and Authorizing Execution of an Amended and Restated (2019) Agreement for Private Development with Wilson School Apartments, LLC and proposed developer Shawn Foutsch of JMAE, LLC.

This amendment includes an increase from $400,000 to $410,000 for total eligible blight remediation grants and extends the original dates from the 2018 Development Agreement.

In a painfully slow-moving process spanning two years or more, 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. If the project comes to fruition, it would help alleviate a serious housing shortage in Cherokee, especially critical as Lopez Foods begins preparations to process meat products in the former shuttered Tyson Foods Plant and short-lived Iowa Food Group plant here, with plans to employ more than 500 at peak production in the future.

In other Council action, two bids were received for the repair of the north bank of the river near the East Main Street bridge as follows: SCE LLC $15,795.23; JJSS, LLC $18,500.

The bank was washed away and is undercutting the parking lot at 312 E. Main St. due to the record flooding this past spring. This will be a FEMA mitigation project. Repairs include reconstruction of the north bank and adding rip rap to 60 to mitigate future damage to the bank and surrounding properties. Councilto awarded the project to the low bidder, SCE LLC.

Council member Chad Brown questioned the status of the clean-up of Wescott Park and Spring Lake Park.

City Administrator Eric List replied that it would soon be cleaned up, and that FEMA representatives were here Monday to do site inspections. The Council discussed using the upper ball field at Wescott Park as a dog park since it is already fenced. The consensus was to go ahead with this plan. More information will be forthcoming.

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