City of Waterloo purchases former Happy Chef Restaurant - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

City of Waterloo purchases former Happy Chef Restaurant

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

Waterloo taxpayers are now the owners of a former downtown restaurant. City Council members voted Monday to purchase the Happy Chef Restaurant and surrounding property for $450,000.

Happy Chef closed its doors in the fall of 2010, and has sat vacant ever since. The City of Waterloo has made it a priority to purchase vacant lots in the area. The Phelps Youth Pavillion, Waterloo Center for the Arts, and Young Arena are all located within a few blocks, and city leaders want to develop the downtown area into a desirable location for new business.

At their regular meeting Monday, council members voted five to one in favor of purchasing the land and demolishing the building. Harold Getty was against the purchase, saying he believed the city was paying too much money.

The property is currently valued at about $363,150, but was assessed at $451,200 before the restaurant closed in 2010. That's the number the city looked at when deciding on a purchase price.

"We may have paid more than some of us would have liked to, given that the restaurant hasn't been open for a while. We treated them the same as we have the other property owners in that we paid them the assessed value. So I think we were just being equitable with the owners," Council Member At-Large Steve Schmitt said.

Schmitt believes, the money the council is spending now will pay off down the road. The property is located right across the street from the former Grand Hotel, which the city recently purchased and demolished. Both properties are in close proximity to the future Waterloo Sportsplex.

"That's just going to be a great facility, couple years down the road," Schmitt said. "It's going to be a year or two to build it, but these are the prices we have to pay for the progress."

Schmitt said, once the building is gone, the city will have no problem finding a quality buyer.

"That's obviously not a done deal, I can't tell you who because I don't necessarily know, but that's one of those things where, it's not going to be a parking lot. It's going to evolve into something much better than that," he said.

Which is why Schmitt believes, ultimately, taxpayers will be very "happy" with the council's investment.

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