Ten months after downtown fire, businesses still in pieces - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Ten months after downtown fire, businesses still in pieces

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MAQUOKETA (KWWL) -- A city block still sits in a pile of rubble more than ten months after a devastating fire.

One block of main street in Maquoketa caught fire last January -- destroying several businesses.   It took fire crews nearly two full days to control the blaze.
Officials say the fire started in a rental above a store -- but still have no official cause.

Piles of bricks, wood, and other debris sit scattered where several shops used to be.

"It's hard for me to see it as a clump of stuff like most people do," said store owner Karen Breitbach.   "that was my stuff in there. I remember what it was, and i still have that image in there."

The Breitbachs own a carpet store that was in the center of the block.  So far - it's the only store that's reopened.

"It's tough," said Brietbach.  "I know it's time to move on. Everybody wants it cleaned up, and we're working toward that goal."

Everyone might want it cleaned up - but it's not that easy.  The various owners of the building - including the breitbachs don't have the insurance money to cover the clean-up process required due to the asbestos strewn throughout the debris.

"Nobody expected it to cost that much, so we just don't have it, and i can't afford to do it."

The Breitbach's should get around 60-thousand dollars from insurance specifically for clean up.
But that's half the amount needed to clean their section.

Knowing the block will sit as bricks otherwise- the city is seeking federal and state grant money.

"The city has an agreement with the owners that if the city is awarded one of a combination of grants, the properties will be signed over to the city along with any insurance money that would have been devoted to clean-up of these properties," said Maquoketa city manager Brian Wagner.

Right now - the hope is getting both grants and insurance money so clean-up might start next summer.

"The best case scenario would be to redevelop it as one unified site with one development. For example, we've in the past tried to attract a pharmacy chain. That may or may not happen, but that's an example of a development we might have in mind."

City officials will find out if they'll get state grant money in March and federal money in June.   Until then -- the block will sit "as-is" -- in piles of debris.

Online Reporter:  Jamie Grey

Online Producer:  Dani Blecha

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