After three years of work, the old bank building in downtown Cascade has its top floor fully renovated into two fully-functioning apartments. The building was purchased by Jesse Loewen in 2017 a year after he and his wife moved back to Iowa. Upon learning of the city’s plans to tear down the decrepit building, Loewen instead offered to renovate it.
“The roof had caved in, the back half of the second floor had collapsed onto the first, it was just neglected for too long,” said Loewen. “I said, ‘You already have to spend that dollar amount to tear it down. I could take that money and revive the building.’ So we did that and a grant took notice, approaching myself and Deana McCusker. The state gave us a grant for the project as well. We preserved the building and redid everything. Nothing’s original in here besides the exterior brick.”
With funding secured, the three-year project began by clearing out anything dangerous or unstable in the old building in preparation for the remodel.
“With the cleanup, I want to say it was 108 tons of material we took out of this building, all by hand because we couldn’t get a machine in,” said Loewen. “We gutted everything that was wood and just left the steel and brick and started from there. It took three years from the start to where we’re at now. We didn’t cut any corners. I want this building here for another hundred years. I’m very happy with how everything turned out.”
As the sole owner of the building, Loewen says he’s invested a lot of work and money into making sure it contributes to the greater Cascade community, even after his initial funds ran out.
“The forgivable loan the city put toward the project has been used up, and I also took out a personal loan on this building myself, so if anyone thinks I don’t have skin in the game, they’re incorrect.”
While the two 1,100 square-feet apartments are currently livable, construction had to be delayed on the second-floor deck because of pandemic restrictions.
“We didn’t get the deck built due to COVID-19,” said Loewen. “I have a couple gentlemen that work for me. One has some underlying conditions and the other’s a little older. COVID-19 really slowed us down. We had a hard time getting treated materials this fall, so we just thought we’d wait. They’ll come organically like this whole project has. Instead of rushing in and forcing stuff, we’ll just wait until next spring to put the deck on.”
The ground floor also currently remains unfinished. Loewen plans to turn it into a commercial space for a new business in town.
“We’d like to see something for the town here. I think a nice restaurant would be a good fit. My biggest goal is to bring outside commerce back into Cascade from the surrounding areas. However, my wife and I aren’t in the restaurant business, so we’re looking for the right tenants or managers to take that space over.”
Loewen says he doesn’t want to commit to any particular design on the ground floor just yet because he thinks those design elements should be left to the owner of the business.
“It all depends on how soon we find tenants for the first floor, because I’m going to build to suit. I’m not in the restaurant business, so I’m not going to build it how I think it should be and then have the people who own the restaurant business say, ‘We don’t like this’. I’m leaving an open shell, and the new tenants can dictate what they want there in the design. It might not even be a restaurant, it could be something else. Just something that would be a good fit for this town and have some longevity is what I’m looking for, not a high turnover rate.”
Anyone who wishes to rent the upstairs apartments may call Jesse Loewen at (563) 207-0438.