Council gives support to Main Street Challenge Grant application

Monday, July 27, 2020
(Sentinel Photo by Beverly Van Buskirk) Le Mars Main Street is applying for a Main Street Challenge Grant to assist in renovating the upper level of the Vander Meer Bakery into a personal dwelling by Nathan and Tana Kass, a first for downtown Le Mars. The city council was asked to support a $37,500 match in applying for the grant.

LE MARS — A Main Street Challenge Grant is being sought by Le Mars Main Street for an upper story housing project in downtown Le Mars.

Le Mars Main Street Manager Mary Reynolds came before the city council Tuesday, July 21, to request financial support in the amount of $37,500 for the Vander Meer Bakery building owned by Nathan and Tana Kass.

According to Reynolds, Kass is planning to develop the double-wide building’s second floor into one high-end personal dwelling. On the east side of the building, he plans to replace the windows on the second floor and remove one of the doors on the first floor.

The west side (alley side) will see dramatic changes, she said. Currently there is no way to reach the second floor, so an interior stairway will be added, windows on second floor will be replaced, a deck will be added, and the coolers on the first floor will be removed and garages built.

Total cost of the renovation is estimated at half a million dollars, according to Reynolds.

Reynolds said the grant maximum is $75,000 which needs to be matched 50-50. With the city putting in $37,500 and Kass putting in $37,500, the project, could receive the $75,000 Challenge Grant.

Reynolds said Iowa Economic Development Authority Director Debi Durham has used Le Mars has an example when she speaks at various conventions and groups.

“So we’re very pleased that she asked for all that information from us,” Reynolds said.

The Main Street Challenge Grants have provided funding for six projects in the last six years: The American Legion Hall, $30,000; and the Le Mars Beauty College, Claussens, Brown’s Inn on Central, One Office Solution and Hotopp’s, each with a $75,000 grant.

The total project costs for those improvements is $1,267,000, with $405,000 in Challenge Grants and $190,000 from the city’s matching funds.

City administration recommended the council approve funding $37,500 of the project if the application is approved by the Iowa Economic Development Authority. This has historically been a very beneficial program for the downtown property owner, as well as, for the rejuvenation of the overall downtown look.

The money would come from the city’s Economic Development Fund.

Work on the grant applications is done by Rich Ziettlow, Dr. Steve Collins and Reynolds.

Reynolds held up a filled notebook of a previous grant applications to show an example of how much work goes into preparing an application.

“Your input is very important to the scoring that we get in Des Moines, because most towns don’t have the wonderful relationship that we do with our city council,” Reynolds said.

The Kass family plans to make this second floor their home.

No work will be done on the first floor interior of the bakery.

“Our plan right now is to sell our house and move down there. I guess it’s kind of been as I’ve seen between Claussen’s and some other buildings, that I hope it continues to be a domino effect where we do another building and then someone does another building,” Kass said.

Reynolds called this project a new catalyst for the city and for building owners to do things with their second floors and their facades.

Council member Ken Nelson asked about the future of the Vander Meer Bakery business.

“Our hope is Chris is going to stay there,” Nathan said of the bakery owner. “Things are going really well for them and it is our hope that we can work with him to make sure that we keep him there. That’s our goal, to keep the bakery downtown.”

The council unanimously approved supporting the Main Street Challenge Grant Application with the city of Le Mars funding $37,500 of the project from the Economic Development Fund.

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