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Deciding to revitalize - Le Mars property owners take preliminary steps

Monday, January 20, 2014

Michael Hanke, who owns Le Mars Laundromat and Red Hanke Saloon, said he is taking the city up on its offer to help restore the exterior of his building as part of the Downtown Revitalization Project. He said he wants his building to look better and save money on his utility bills. To purchase this photo, log on to www.lemarssentinel.com.
Several property owners in Le Mars' downtown are excited to watch the exterior of their buildings restored as part of the city's Downtown Revitalization Project.

Construction will target the buildings' fašades, windows and trim, to make their exteriors resemble their historical appearance.

The Downtown Revitalization Project is being paid for with a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant.

Michael Hanke said the brick on his building's exterior needs to be repointed, as wind passes through gaps in the masonry. To purchase this photo, log on to www.lemarssentinel.com.
The grant is matched locally with $500,000 split between the city and participating building owners, for a total project budget of $1 million.

This means property owners will finance a quarter of the restoration cost of their property.

"Oh yeah," said Tim Rasmussen, of Timmy's Catering Services. "It sounded like a good deal to me."

The exterior of Michael Hanke's bar, the Red Hanke Saloon, will receive a touch-up as part of Le Mars' Downtown Revitalization Project. To purchase this photo, log on to www.lemarssentinel.com.
Rasmussen said he doesn't know what work the city will do on his building, but he is pursuing the project because it will cost him less than doing it alone.

Terry Claussen, of Claussen's Menswear, said he plans to join the project also because of its lower cost.

"It seemed like it was a pretty good deal from the standpoint of getting 75 percent of it paid for," he said.

Claussen said he thinks the work will include repointing the brick on his building and repairing windows.

Michael Hanke, who owns Red Hanke Saloon and Le Mars Laundromat, said he signed on because he wants to make his building look better.

He said the restoration of the building's fašade will include removing metal paneling, repointing brick and adding new signage.

"It gives the front a whole new look, actually," Hanke said.

Another reason he is excited about the work is to save money on his utility bills.

"A lot of breeze is blowing through there, on the old bricks," he said.

To move forward with the work, property owners are required to put down a money deposit that corresponds to the total cost of restoring their buildings.

The deadline for owners to submit deposits to City Hall was Jan. 15.

The day after the deadline, 15 property owners had submitted contracts and deposits, said Le Mars City Administrator Scott Langel.

He expects more to come in before architects meet with the interested owners to review preliminary designs.

City staff, including Langel, had contacted building owners to remind them to turn in their paperwork.

He said of the six he contacted, five expressed interest.

"Most of it has been very positive," he said.

He said owners may have missed the deadline because they were out of town or unavailable for other reasons.

"I've only got one of my six who signed the papers and sent it back to us," Langel said. "My guess is that I'll have five out of six."

Langel said the city may accept additional deposits even though the deadline has passed, but he discourages property owners to wait any longer before signing up.

The proposed firm for creating restoration plans is Frank's Design Group, of Glenwood.

The Le Mars City Council will decide Tuesday whether to accept a contract for architectural and engineering services with the firm.

Langel said the project will begin once the chosen architect meets with property owners and representatives from the city, Le Mars Main Street and Iowa's State Historic Preservation Office.

The architect will present restoration plans, and property owners will decide whether they wish to continue.

Langel anticipates those meetings will take about 60-70 days to complete.

"That will then open the door for the final design in the contract documents," he said.

This work will cost the city about $41,000, but that number will be lower if property owners decide not to move forward with the project.

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