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Downtown Renovation Project Continues

By Staff | Oct 20, 2011

Removal of two downtown buildings was a community effort. Emmetsburg Retail Association and Emmetsburg Chamber of Commerce teamed up with several entities to remove the former Wards building and also the Hometown Electric building. Team members (pictured from the left) are Dan McCain, Emmesburg Chamber President and Deb Hite, Chamber Director; PACGDC member Lloyd Peterson; Dr. Kim Zimmerman with ECDC; Mel Pins with Iowa DNR, Brownfield program; Emmetsburg Economic Development Director Steve Heldt; Kris Ausborn, resident of Emmetsburg Community Development Commission; Laura Blanchet, ERA co-chair; Don Miller, PACGDC; Audrey Niemen, Wild Rose; Dan Cooper, ECDC; John Allen, Wild Rose; Skip Wallace, PACGDC; and Dave VanOosbree, Hometown Electric. --Jane Whitmore photo

Removing two buildings from the downtown landscape was truly a community project. The former Wards building, 917 Broadway, and the Hometown Electric building, 915 Broadway, were razed late this summer.

Emmetsburg Retail Association took the lead on the project. They recognized that the building at 917 Broadway was a safety hazard to the community as well as a detriment to the future of business in Emmetsburg.

Emmetsburg Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors gave their approval for the Emmetsburg Retail Association (ERA) to proceed. The Chamber Board and ERA worked jointly to achieve the goal of removing the building. To proceed with a grant application from Palo Alto County Gaming Development Corporation, matching funds were needed. The Storm Committee allowed their funds, held by the City of Emmetsburg and earmarked for beautification, to be donated to this project and used for matching funds. The grant application was successful.

“Thanks go to Palo Alto County Gaming Development Corporation for approving the grant,” said Deb Hite, Executive Director of Emmetsburg Chamber of Commerce. “Thanks also go to Wild Rose Casino & Resort for their generous commitment to Palo Alto County through the non-profit group. It is their success that makes it possible for us to have received this grant.”

One of the first steps in the project was meeting with Mel Pins from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Pins is program coordinator for the Iowa Brownfield Redevelopment Program.

Through the Brownfield program, cost was shared for the Asbestos Contaminated Materials Report, Phase One Study, and the removal of contaminated materials from the building site.

“We did the asbestos testing and assessed the asbestos disposal cost,” said Pins. “We were the first dollar in. You guys did the rest and that’s what’s fantastic about this community.”

It became apparent that the Hometown Electric building, 915 Broadway, would not stand alone after the Wards’ building was removed. Emmetsburg Community Development Corporation stepped forward with funding to also remove that building. Hometown Electric is now operating out of the former Look Who’s Stamping building located right next door at 913 Broadway.

The City of Emmetsburg and Emmetsburg Municipal Utilities also provided financial contributions to the project.

Deb Hite gave thanks to many. “I extend a special thank you to Steve Heldt, Emmetsburg Community Development Director, and Dan McCain, Emmetsburg Chamber Board President, as project managers. They oversaw the project and worked through the unexpected things that always seem to come up and they maintained communication with all parties concerned.

“Other key participants are Matt and Sonya Borkowski of Sol Salon and Dave and Katie VanOosbree of Hometown Electric,” said Hite. “We so appreciate your patience and flexibility as the project evolved.”

Hite also commended the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors and Palo Alto County Treasurer Mary Hilfiker for their assistance with property tax and ownership issues.

“The Emmetsburg Retail Association and Emmetsburg Chamber of Commerce consider this project to be a wonderful community success that could not have been accomplished without the cooperation of many,” said Hite. “Work that still needs to be done includes discussion on what will become of this open space.”