Although Jasper County wants to understand the finer details of a large-scale redevelopment project at Legacy Plaza before reaching a deal with all respective parties, the Sept. 27 Board of Supervisors was broadly happy with the idea. and thinks it fills a need and will lead to further development.
The board voted 2-0 to authorize JEDCO Executive Director Jeff Davidson and Supervisor Brandon Talsma to continue discussions with all parties in the Legacy Plaza redevelopment project. Talsma abstained. Before the supervisors voted, they were treated to a presentation of the project.
Jake Christensen, president of Des Moines-based Christensen Development, is the lead developer on the project, a $30 million renovation of historic Maytag buildings 1, 2 and 16 at Legacy Plaza. The buildings will be transformed into 90-unit apartments at market price and a high-end 30-room hotel.
“Next, a bar/restaurant would go into the space formerly occupied by the Peanut Pub,” Christensen said during the presentation. “Our goals for the project…is to create something new for Jasper County. Currently, our goal is to be in the top 3 apartments and n°1 hotel in the region.
Funding for the project is bolstered by the creation of a reinvestment district in Newton, which will provide $14 million in public funds over 20 years.
“The Reinvestment District is not giving us a $14 million grant,” Davidson told supervisors of the state funding mechanism. “What this does is create a revenue stream from new sales and hotel/motel taxes that can provide, possibly over time, up to $14 million to invest in the project. .”
Although there is some upfront risk in monetizing this $14 million, the county would be reimbursed over time from new sales taxes and hotel/motel taxes. During the supervisors’ deliberations on the Legacy Plaza project, Davidson said there had to be belief that the local economy was capable of creating this revenue stream.
“We think it is, otherwise we wouldn’t be bringing it to you,” Davidson said.
Whenever Davidson brings a project to the board of supervisors, he always tries to ask himself: is it building a tax base to provide municipal services? Does it create jobs to build the community? Davidson said the development project answered yes to both questions.
“And I think that does them on a scale that’s important to the community and will be a game-changer for Jasper County,” Davidson said, noting that what’s also important is the increase in value. taxable that arises from the project, especially considering the buildings are not on the tax rolls now.
When the project is fully developed, it is estimated to accrue between $200,000 and $275,000 in taxes depending on the assessments. Approximately 55 people will be on site for most of the construction period. But the permanent jobs created by the project are estimated at between 15 and 20.
“Increasing assessed value and creating jobs are important. Getting jobs back on the tax rolls is clearly a priority for the owner and I think we benefit the community,” Davidson said. “The preservation of historic Maytag heritage buildings…they are in a good place right now.”
Even when a building suffered heavy damage as a result of the 2020 derecho, DMACC wasted no time in restoring it. Years later, if the buildings are left derelict, they won’t be in such good condition, Davidson said. The way to preserve historic buildings, he added, is to make them economically viable.
“These buildings will be well maintained and maintained as they will be economically viable within what is on offer,” Davidson said. “This project also moves Newton forward and moves Jasper County forward with facilities. The project will establish things that currently do not exist in the community.
Christensen strongly believes that hotel rooms will bring customers to town who would normally stay elsewhere. It would add to the tourism industry and other amenities in Jasper County, he said. From a housing perspective, Christensen said his development group would create unique housing, attract people interested in moving to Jasper County and retain young people.
The bar/restaurant would also amplify the courtyard of Legacy Plaza, which Christensen says has already seen success and describes it as a unique destination.
But the developer wants help from Jasper County, which Davidson says would require some sort of bond sale. Fortunately, the revenue stream in the reinvestment district would pay off those bonds.
Jasper County chief public financial officer and councilor Jon Burmeister said the county has the authority to sell general obligation bonds for the project. This would be guaranteed by the county’s “very strong” credit rating. Burmeister said he has a structured bond for June 2023, aligned with the construction season.
“I would propose to the county that we take some of the bond proceeds and set it aside to cover your interest expense payments for fiscal year 2024… This would then lock the county in until June 2024 with no payments to be made. “Burmeister said. “We would like to coordinate with the city … The state established the base in February 2022, and they wanted the timing set for April 2024.”
By the time the county needs to start paying down its debt, there will be two years of growth in the increase stream, Burmeister added. Overall, Burmeister suggested the county’s finances are strong and its involvement in the redevelopment would be a good move.
“But it’s important, as Jeff indicated, it’s a projection,” Burmeister said. “It’s based on the project being completed. It builds on the economic vitality of downtown Newton. But I think this funding, at least in my personal opinion, puts the county in the best possible position to reduce the risk to the county and get this project funded.
Supervisor Doug Cupples appreciated that the county had revenue rather than the county paying upfront costs. That’s a lot of money, but on the same note, he thinks it “could do a lot of good for the county.” Davidson said to supervisors’ credit that the county’s financial situation is what allows them to do so.
Iowa House Rep. Jon Dunwell, R-Newton, praised supervisors for taking a “significant leadership step.” From conversations he’s had with other lawmakers, they’re excited about Jasper County, citing the governor’s support for IndyCar race weekends at Iowa Speedway.
“It’s an important message for other things that could happen to Jasper County as well because of your potential leadership on this issue,” Dunwell said.
Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 560 or [email protected]