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Fort Dodge Community Foundation, City Partnering on Study to Help Revitalize Warden Plaza

Mar/29/16 - Source: The Messenger | Category: News

Warden Building
A new assessment will determine how to best utilize the vacant Warden Plaza downtown.
-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson

Fort Dodge will provide $20,000 towards a study which it hopes will help revitalize the vacant and deteriorating Warden Plaza downtown.

"We're entering into a contract with a consultant who is going to help do some identification of funding opportunities, developmental opportunities, and repurposing, reusing space within the Warden building, which as we all know is in really bad shape," Mayor Matt Bemrich said.

The city on Monday signed a memorandum of understanding with the Fort Dodge Community Foundation, which will partner with the city in the project.

The group will hire consultant Zachary Mannheimer, of Johnston-based Iowa Business Growth, for the creative placemaking economic assessment.

"Trying to identify the marketplace, what could go there, what it could be used for, other funding opportunities is vital to moving this project forward," Bemrich said.

The study will help determine how to best use the lower, commercial floors of the building, not just the upper housing floors, said City Manager David Fierke.

"The idea is, residential developers can probably make the residential floors work well," Fierke said. "The big hurdle is what goes in the commercial floors?"

Developers have long wanted to create new housing spaces on the upper floors, in the building, which has been empty for well over a decade and become an "eyesore," according to the city.

"There is a lot of office space available downtown. There is a lot of commercial space downtown, and you don't have to pay a lot of rent for it," Fierke said. "Redeveloping that into commercial space is not as easy as, hey, let's just do it and we know we'll fill it up."

Mannheimer was responsible for developing the old fire station in Des Moines, which is now the Des Moines Social Club, council member Kim Alstott said.

"He has a great track record too," said Alstott. "I think he can do some great work for Fort Dodge."

The study will also involve community arts groups, officials said - both in how to make the space beautiful, and how it can be used in more creative ways.

"He's going to consolidate a lot of the plans we've done in the past," council member Terry Moehnke said. "I think it's not only going to be the redevelopment of the Warden, but he's looking at several aspects of the community."

The study will also examine if a new Rec Center could be put there.

The city originally had planned to create a new center at the former Fareway site, just south of the roundabout at Second Avenue South and Sixth Street.

Fierke said that may still happen, but the city is looking at options.

"We have not given up on that location," Fierke said. "Not all the land has been acquired yet."

It's worth spending some money to make the Warden Plaza viable, Bemrich said. If the plaza had to be torn down, it could cost well over $2 million.

Source: The Messenger (