To the Editor:
I would like to take this opportunity to say "Great Job!" and extend my sincere gratitude to everyone who had a part in the removal of the property at 917 Broadway, more commonly called "The Old Ward's Building". It is my belief that the success of any project is collaboration and this was a prime example.
Many of you were intrigued by the demolition process. Some of you sat in your vehicles for great lengths of time watching to see how meticulously the crew from Midwest Construction Services worked. It was spellbinding to watch as the operator of the excavator painstakingly removed one row of bricks at a time with the corner of his bucket as if he were reaching out with his own hand to knock them out of place. That was how the building began to come down, but the project began long before this stage.
The Old Ward's Building had been in disrepair for a good 15 to 20 years. Its condition slowly deteriorated until the roof fell in, eventually causing the floor to fall also. Property taxes were left unpaid and the building was left in limbo. It became a safety hazard to pedestrians on the street but even more so to the buildings adjacent to it. Feral cats, rodents and birds soon took over as tenants.
The city council had condemned the building but was reluctant to take on the demolition after legal advice was received. The Emmetsburg Retail Association (ERA) and the Emmetsburg Chamber of Commerce took strong interest in getting the project off the ground. Visions of orange barricade fences surrounding the front of the building deterring pedestrians for years, possible total collapse of the building, and a desire to save the business district were the motivating factors for the ERA.
At this point it was Steve Heldt, Emmetsburg Community Developer that had the knowledge and expertise to pull this project together to make it happen. He stepped in to become project manager. Steve first brought in Mel Pins of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Brownfield Program for financial support for identifying and removing the asbestos and other hazardous material in the building. With Mr. Pins' approval of the project, Steve met with the Chamber Board to ask for their support of the project and their approval of the Retail Association's goal of submitting a grant to the Palo Alto County Gaming Development Corporation. With no matching funds for the PACGDC grant, Dan McCain, Chamber Board President and ERA member, and I met with the STORM committee to ask for STORM beautification project money to be designated for those matching funds. They agreed. Then we went to the City Council to ask that they partner with us to match project funds with the City's TIF funds. All the funding fell in place including the non-profit grant. Steve Heldt then began the laborious process of seeking demolition cost and hazardous material disposal costs. Along the way Steve led us through a minefield of legal requirements, deadlines, pitfalls, progress reports and negotiations with all of the participants. Without Steve Heldt's guidance the project would not have been completed.
We are fortunate to be a part of a community that can work together for the common good. In the future we intend to repurpose this land. Efforts to improve the community will continue with cooperative efforts like this one.
Thank you to all of these organizations for collaborating on this very worthy project: Emmetsburg Retail Association, Chamber of Commerce Board, Mel Pins of IDNR, Palo Alto County Gaming Development Corporation, STORM Committee, Emmetsburg Community Development Corporation, City of Emmetsburg, Emmetsburg Municipal Utilities. Also thank you to the Palo Alto County Supervisors and Mary Hilfiker, County Treasurer, with their assistance with property tax issues.
A special word of appreciation to Steve Heldt and Dan McCain for their leadership and to Matt and Sonia Borkowski of Sol Salon and Dave and Katie VanOosbree of Hometown Electric for their patience and flexibility as the project evolved.
Great job everyone!
(signed) Deb Hite
Emmetsburg Chamber of Commerce