A downtown cornerstone since 1921, the bank building is getting a new lease on life through an extensive rehabilitation project undertaken by developer Jesse Loewen. The project has also received a fiscal shot in the arm from a $100,000 Community Catalyst Grant, just one of several state programs that can be beneficial to smaller, rural communities.
Iowa Lt. Governor Adam Gregg toured the building Oct. 16, along with Loewen, State Representative Andy McKean and officials from the City of Cascade. The visit was just one of Gregg’s among Iowa’s 99 counties, and he said these visits can take many forms. “One of the things I’ve tried to prioritize this year is visiting small-town projects like this, and specifically, Community Catalyst Grant projects.”
“Gov. Reynolds has tasked me with leading the Empower Rural Iowa Initiative,” Gregg added. He said the initiative is looking at several different issues, including how the state can help communities deal with older buildings that might be falling apart or sitting abandoned.
“This is a great example of how a community can rally around that, and how the Community Catalyst Grant can help communities generate more investment in their downtowns.”
Revitalizing the downtown buildings and thus, the downtown economy, is not an issue exclusive to Cascade. “The goal is commerce,” Loewen said of his plan, which includes a main-level restaurant and two upper-level apartments. “We want to get commerce going through this building.”
Mayor Greg Staner knows it’s a common issue among small towns. “It’s the same fight, getting these old buildings back into service and getting the downtown moving again.”
Gregg said Cascade is a shining example of just what can be accomplished with programs like the Community Catalyst Grant. “The idea is that it will catalyze further investment in downtown. We have a Community Catalyst project right across the street (Cheryl’s Flour Garden Bakery and Coffee Bar) and that generates interest in (pursuing a similar grant for the former Corner Tap), and they’re already planning what the future application is going to look like.”
The Community Catalyst Grant is just one possible tool towns and developers can utilize; Gregg hopes to make them all accessible to smaller towns who may not have grant writers among them. “The (Community Catalyst Grant) seems to be a program that’s working well. I also know that there are numerous state programs that can help communities deal with older buildings. We’re looking at how we can make these programs more user-friendly.”