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Maquoketa downtown gets new life through state pilot program

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Maquoketa downtown

JACKSON COUNTY, Iowa (KWWL) The City of Maquoketa has received a $500,000 grant through a pilot housing program, to revitalize an upper story of a 1860’s building, to add housing in downtown.

A once struggling, empty downtown is now booming with new businesses, thanks to reinvestment projects spurred by the city.

“We decided we wanted to focus on downtown, make it grown and bring it back to life. That included a $4 million street reconstruction which included sidewalks, lights and infrastructure,” said Maquoketa’s Mayor, Don Schwenker.

Now city officials are looking to take it one step further. By transforming old forgotten upper levels, like the one on top of a 1860’s pharmacy building, into apartment units. Which the city needs more of according to Jackson County Economic Alliance’s Senior Advisor, David Heiar, “We did a housing study for the county about 4 years ago. One of the things it indicated was that we have a real need for housing, just in general. In particular rental types of housing.”

Renovating these old buildings isn’t cheap. However, thanks to a state pilot program that Maquoketa was picked for, the city secured $500,000 for the project. That’ll also be combined with private money, in total the buildings renovation is expected to come in around $900,000.

“We’re trying to help define the rules of how this can go because again, the state is trying to figure out how a program like this is will work. We’re glad we can be on fore front of this,” said Schwenker.

The upper floor of the ‘Art Experience’ building, once an old pharmacy, sat vacant for 30 years. However, the program only required a 3 year vacancy to qualify. Now officials hope this project will spark the next wave of reinvestment by bringing more people into downtown.

“This is an example where we’re creating 4 or possibly 6 units in the downtown. If we’re correct, they’ll fill up quickly once they’re completed, then others will see that and think about a reinvestment of their own,” said Heiar.

This is one of a few projects like it in Maquoketa. The city manager called this a renaissance era for the town, after it lost half a block of downtown businesses to a fire in 2008.

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