The Rental Housing and Property Maintenance committee will meet at 6 p.m. March 26, in the Washington Free Public Library. The committee will discuss changes and revision to Chapter 157, Property Maintenance Code.
Historical Spaulding Center to Undergo Construction for New Lofts
Hubbell Realty Company, based in West Des Moines, will be building 77 new loft apartments through a historical rehabilitation of two Spaulding Center buildings located in the historical downtown
area of Grinnell. Because Grinnell has been experiencing a housing shortage over the past few years, city officials reached out to Hubbell Realty in the summer of 2012 to discuss possible housing development projects.
In an email written to the S&B, Kris Saddoris, Vice President of Development for Hubbell Realty, wrote, “We spent two years understanding the positive job growth in the city as well as opportunities for development within Grinnell. We have vast experience in historic redevelopment in Des Moines and felt that Spaulding Lofts offered the best option to address a portion of the housing shortage.”
The decision to build new housing options was, in a large part, precipitated by the knowledge that Brownells, an Iowa-based firearms accessory supplier, would be opening a new location in Grinnell in the late summer of 2014. The opening of Brownells’ 200,000 square-foot facility is expected to bring 500 new jobs into the community, amplifying the city’s dire need for housing and accommodations.
The town administrators are very grateful for the upcoming project, especially in terms of what it can bring to Grinnell’s population growth. Mayor Gordon Canfield expressed excitement at the prospects of accommodating individuals working in Grinnell.
“It’s the best thing that’s happened to Grinnell as far as housing is concerned. We can hardly wait for them to be here … The Chamber of Commerce will tell you that approximately 26 percent of workers working in Grinnell live elsewhere, and they drive in. That’s too large of a percentage,” Canfield said.
According to Angela Harrington, President/CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, the housing market has not grown in accord with the tremendous job growth Grinnell has experienced over the past years. The large number of commuters affects the economic growth of the town.
“Almost 3,000 people in-commute into Grinnell every day, much in part due to a lack of housing,” Harrington wrote in an email to the S&B. “[Commuters] only spend a fraction of money in town of what residents spend.”
Harrington also projects that the increase in population will further result in an increase in Grinnell’s job and economic growth.
“Job growth is great but if those jobs don’t translate to residency, the economy does not grow as it should. What small shops, restaurants and large employers need [are] more people. Without the right housing, people don’t come,” Harrington wrote.
The one to two bedroom apartment units are expected to appeal to a demographic of 21 to 40 year-olds. Currently, the city offers very few high-quality rentals for prospective buyers.
“[The new apartments are] very important, because they serve a segment that’s very much underserved in the rental market,” Canfield said.
Harrington believes that this tailored housing has the potential to affect Grinnell’s future housing economy, as rentals can very likely act as channels for single family home sales.
The Spaulding Center, originally the home to the Spaulding Manufacturing Company in the 1870s and the future site of the new lofts, became registered as a historical part of Grinnell in the 1970s, due to the efforts of a then Grinnell College student.
“The company dissolved because there was too much competition for them to compete. One of the stories is that Henry Ford came to Grinnell to Henry Spaulding and tried to buy him out,” Canfield explained.
After the Spaulding Manufacturing Company closed down, the center housed a shoe factory and afterwards a bluegrass seed processing factory, until it came under the ownership of the Iowa Transportation Museum, where Canfield serves as President. The museum will continue to be housed in one of the other buildings in the Spaulding Center and is currently in the process of selling part of the Spaulding Center properties to the Hubbell Realty Company, who will convert the buildings into modern living spaces.
The Hubbell Realty Company was recently selected to receive an affordable housing tax credit award of 604,500 dollars from the Iowa Finance Authority. This housing award does not just provide the necessary funding to move the project forward with construction to begin in fall of 2014, but it also lowers the rental price per apartment unit.
“If it weren’t for the tax credit, the rent that you would have to pay would just be double. The purpose for it is to ensure that the rents are affordable,” Canfield said.
As a result of the tax credit award, the rent for a one bedroom loft apartment will range between 560 and 750 dollars per month, and the rent for a two bedroom loft apartment will range between 670 and 875 dollars per month. All units will include a washer/dryer. All apartment complexes will also include a community room, business center and fitness center. According to Saddoris, the features of the building will retain the features of the historical facility as best as possible.
Redevelopment of the Spaulding Center and construction of the new lofts will begin in the late summer of 2014, and Hubbell Realty predicts that the housing units will be open to buyers the following year.
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