MUSCATINE — With the sale of the Hershey Building finalized, Muscatine can expect to see more housing and amenities in the downtown area as soon as the end of summer.
The 110-year old building at 216 Sycamore St. will be the new home of 25 market-rate apartments that include five studio units, 15 one-bedroom units and five two-bedroom units after it was sold to Bush Development, an ancillary company of Bush Construction.
Plans for the five-story building were presented to the Muscatine City Council prior to the notice of the sale last week. Bryce Henderson, vice president of project development at Bush Construction, gave details and answered questions at the Oct. 11 in-depth meeting.
"We're looking to renovate it into some really nice, market-rate apartments with some high end amenities including an in-facility gym, storage for each of the tenants on floor, in-unit laundry, a business lounge," Henderson said at the meeting, "and all-in-all just creating some market-rate housing in downtown Muscatine, which I think you guys are in need of."
The amenities he mentioned will be included on the first floor. Apartments will be located on floors two through five, with two units and a business lounge on the mezzanine.
Henderson said the company is "ready to get construction underway," and anticipated project completion in seven to nine months.
Construction will be done "top-down," he said, with the demolition and building completed first on the top floors. He said development will begin early next year and apartments will be ready for tenants "late summer/early fall." A partnership that includes 22 contractors within a 100-mile radius of Muscatine will complete the work.
Monthly rent for the units will range from $750 to $800 for a studio at 550-to- 600 square feet, $950 to $1,000 for a one bedroom at 700-to-750 square feet, and $1,300 to $1,400 for a two bedroom at 1,100-to-1,200 square feet. Henderson explained to the council that the rates were comparable to those in the Quad-Cities. He also said that some parking will be available on-site and he was working with the city on parking in a lot closer to the Mississippi River.
According to the project summary documents, "total project costs are projected to be $6.9 million. This is broken down between approximately $5.2 million in hard costs, $800,000 in acquisition and $900,000 in soft costs including closing costs, interest and operating reserves."
The building was sold last week after being listed in September of 2017. SECO Investment Co., a related company of Stanley Consultants, sold the property to Bush Development for approximately $820,000.
Much of the 36,000 square-foot building is vacant, according to a joint news release from the two companies. Sycamore Printing located on the first floor with printing in the basement, will remain open during the renovation and will remain in the building following completion of the project. The commercial print company is owned and operated by Stanley Consultants, and has been located in the building since 1988, according to the news release.
The project summary also included a request for 100 percent tax increment financing for 10 years. City Administrator Gregg Mandsager said the request was "well within range of our recent housing TIF programs" citing what other projects have requested the past 15 years.
"From our perspective, this is a great opportunity for rehab of a downtown commercial and/or residential project," Mandsager said.
The Hershey Building was constructed in 1908 as a new location for Hershey State Bank, funded by Almira "Mira" Hershey. At 5-stories tall, it was reportedly once considered the tallest building in Muscatine.
An analysis of the building was completed during the Architectural and Historical Survey and Evaluation of Downtown Muscatine performed in 2004-2005. The project found the building did not qualify on its own to be on the National Historic Registry, but may qualify to be a part of a National Historic District. Seco Investment Company, a subsidiary of Stanley Engineering Company, acquired the property in 1951.
The news release also said that Bush Construction will preserve as much of the historic fabric as possible and interiors will feature exposed concrete, quartz countertops and wooden doors with trim.
"It's going to be a great project for the downtown. Bush Development, as I understand it, is going to do this in a very aggressive fashion and try to bring these apartments on line very quickly," Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce President Greg Jenkins said. "So, I think this will add another layer to the mix of those who reside in the downtown area and will offer opportunities for more shopping and more places for people to come and eat and take advantage of what the downtown has to offer."
Jenkins went on to say, "I also think, for the community, it's a positive thing because we do have housing issues. And so, this will enable some additional housing in the community for people that may want to live in the downtown area, but it will also be some very nice apartments for those who want an alternative from maybe where they live today."
He said he might be an example of someone that may want to move downtown as he currently has an acre of land to maintain, and others with similar responsibilities may want something with less maintenance.
"So, do I want to continue to do that or would I maybe want to move into an apartment like this?" he said. "So, that's a great opportunity.
"I think there will be a lot of people that want to take advantage of it."
A link to the project summary may be found on the City of Muscatine website.