It’s a six-peat
LE MARS — What’s nicer then five? Six, of course.
That is the number of Main Street Iowa Challenge Grants, the Le Mars Main Street Program has received since 2011. The sixth being awarded to Chris Ward, owner of the Hotopps building at 26 Central Ave. N.W., in a ceremony held by the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) in Des Moines on Thursday afternoon.
Ward was the recipient of a $75,000 grant that will be used to restore the second level of the Hotopps building into one high-end apartment and to complete renovations on the main level including: a new bathroom and new office, as well as installation of a new ceiling and lights.
The City of Le Mars will also offer a $37,500 grant towards the project, with Ward responsible for the remainder of the project.
“I’m very grateful for this grant. It’s a great opportunity,” Ward said. “There are a small group of people here in Le Mars that are going to keep Le Mars downtown going the way it is and I’m glad that I’m part of that.”
Ward’s project was one of 14 to receive grants at Thursday’s ceremony at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. One million dollars in state monies were awarded to Main Street communities spread across the state.
Le Mars Main Street Design Team Chair Rich Ziettlow, who was in attendance with Ward at the presentation, said to receive yet another grant is humbling.
“Like every year when we go down for the presentation, it’s exciting when you consider there were 26 who submitted an application this year and only 14 received a grant,” Ziettlow shared. “Somehow they found enough merit in our project to give it to us. It makes me pretty proud of our community and what we’re able to do through the Main Street Program and the chamber and hopefully to be able to keep that going.”
Ward, who has owned the Hotopps building for over a year, also owns two other downtown buildings. He said it is his hope to reapply next year.
“I went forward with this grant so I can invest money, not only of my own but everything together, so I can get more income and buy another building downtown that needs work also. I want to keep moving forward,” Ward stated.
“I’ve lived here all my life. As a kid I remember riding my bike down Central and there was always something going on downtown. Then over time I saw the buildings deteriorate and now I can see them going back the other way. I want to keep Le Mars growing and keep the downtown alive. What a lot of small communities can’t do is keep their downtowns alive and we’ve done a very good job to this point and I’d love to see it continue to go forward.”
It is that enthusiasm for his hometown, that was a huge selling point Ziettlow, Main Street Manager Mary Reynolds, and fellow grant write Dr. Steve Collins focused on when submitting Ward’s application.
“One of the reasons we went with Chris’ project is because he is so excited with what is going on with downtown. That was one of the big selling points of selecting his project because he’s really interested in our community and the downtown,” Ziettlow said.
Ward is expecting to begin renovation on Dec. 1 with a projected timeline of five months to complete the project.
“It’s a total gut of the space. It will involve new electrical, new plumbing, while trying to keep what we can to maintain its historical integrity,” he stated.
The grants are administered through the IEDA’s Iowa Downtown Resource Center and Main Street Iowa programs. The Challenge Grant program is funded through an appropriation from the Iowa Legislature.
“Everybody here has helped me out tremendously. A big thanks goes out to all of them — the state for their contribution, the City of Le Mars for their contribution, the Main Street Program for all their time, effort and work to make this happen, and Midstates Bank for their helpfulness in this process,” Ward stated. “There’s nothing this group of people would not do for you to keep things going. They have a true passion for this.”