Deteriorating Dubuque landmark leaves many frustrated | State and Regional

DUBUQUE (AP) — A Dubuque City Council member and nearby residents are frustrated over a deteriorating Dubuque landmark, the proposed rehabilitation of which continues to face delays and funding shortfalls.

They are running out of patience regarding plans for the historic Dubuque Malting and Brewing Co. campus at 3000 and 3040 Jackson St.

City Council Member Danny Sprank said he is not satisfied with the status of the project.

“It’s discouraging that we are not moving farther along with the process, and some folks are saying it’s time to talk about not saving it,” said Sprank, who represents the ward in which the property is located. “I live and work right by it, and nothing has been happening, progress-wise.”

Ron Gorman, who lives across from the complex on Jackson Street, said he thinks that it is an eyesore.

“It’s never taken care of,” he told the Telegraph Herald. “It would be nice if something would be done with it.”

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The roughly 125-year-old complex that was once capable of producing more than 200,000 barrels of beer annually has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. But the nearly 3-acre complex suffered several structural collapses over the years and has been a code and nuisance problem for the city at times.

Steve Emerson, president of the architecture and design firm Aspect Inc. and the owner of the property, said a proposed $30 million rehabilitation of the property has been delayed again due to difficulties in securing funding.

It represents the latest delay for a project that once had an anticipated start date in the summer of 2018.

Emerson said he is pursuing state low-income housing tax credits, but even if they are secured, the project still would be short of its total funding goal.

“There would still be some gap,” he said. “We are looking at other grant or nonprofit opportunities that we have to fund this project.”

Emerson purchased the property in 2017 with intentions of developing 82 one- and two-bedroom and efficiency apartments, to be located above 17,000 square feet of office, commercial and retail space. While Emerson said those plans remain unchanged, the project itself has seen little to no progress, and the building continues to deteriorate.

Emerson said he paid to have any necessary structural repairs done to the building, so it would be safe for the winter.

Alexis Steger, housing and community development director for the city, said the city’s top priority is ensuring the property does not represent a safety concern for the public.

“We want to make sure that it stays stable,” she said.

City officials previously approved a development agreement for the project that included nearly $3.4 million in tax incentives and grants. That agreement initially required construction to begin by August 2018. In 2019, it was amended to push that deadline to Aug. 1, 2020. Though that deadline has passed, the agreement remains unaltered.

Under the current terms, the city could declare an event of default against the developer for not meeting the construction deadline and terminate the agreement. However, city staff expressed continued support for the project.

“The development agreement is a starting catalyst to encourage other investment from different sectors,” said Ian Hatch, assistant economic development director for the city. “We would like to see the project move forward.”

He said he anticipates a new amendment will be presented to City Council members but did not specify when.

“We want to get more information to set more realistic deadlines,” Hatch said.

Steger said city staff anticipates that time will be needed to line up funds for the project, given its size.

Hatch compared the project to the redevelopment of the “Voices” building at 1000 Jackson St. Dupaco Community Credit Union announced plans in 2019 to invest roughly $37 million into the redevelopment of the historic structure. This year, the credit union continued to move employees into the renovated building.

Reached by the Telegraph Herald recently, City Council members expressed mixed support for the developer and the project.

City Council member and Mayor-elect Brad Cavanagh said he is disappointed with the deterioration of the building but still wants to see it saved.

“I hope that everyone involved can find a way,” he said. “It is such a great piece of history for Dubuque.”

Sprank said he feels the city has little recourse. Even if the city were to pursue terminating the development agreement, it would be highly difficult to attempt to legally claim a building that is being kept structurally intact by the developer.

“We are pigeonholed by the state law,” he said. “I don’t think the courts would be on our side.”

Emerson said he remains committed to the project and still wants to see the building restored.

“I bought the building originally to save it, and I’m trying to figure out a way to do that,” he said. “We’re doing what we can. It’s taking a long time and a lot of effort.”

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