McGregor receives $100,000 grant for rehab of Sullivan Opera House

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Rehabilitation efforts for the Sullivan Opera House received a large boost last week, when the city of McGregor was awarded a $100,000 Community Catalyst Building Remediation grant for the project. (NIT file photo)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

Rehabilitation efforts for the Sullivan Opera House received a large boost last week, when the city of McGregor was awarded a $100,000 Community Catalyst Building Remediation grant for the project. The announcement was made at an awards presentation during the Iowa Rural Development Summit, in Grinnell.

McGregor was one of 18 Iowa communities that received grants for the remediation or redevelopment of underutilized buildings to stimulate economic growth in the community.

The Community Catalyst Building Remediation program is funded through an appropriation from the Iowa Legislature. This is the first year these grants were made available via the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA).

In order to proceed with the official grant application, McGregor first had to have its pre-application approved. Of the 53 applications received, 18 received the maximum grant award of $100,000. Scoring criteria was based on project impact, appropriateness, funding/partnerships and incorporation of sustainability/smart growth principles. Per program rules, at least 40 percent of the grants were awarded to cities with populations of less than 1,500.

“These grants will be instrumental in the revitalization of communities statewide,” said IEDA Director Debi Durham. “Reinvesting in the redevelopment of buildings ultimately is about creating an environment where businesses and people can thrive.” 

The grants will support local improvement projects such as façade upgrades, building rehabilitations and renovations. Cities are required to provide financial and/or in-kind resources to supplement these projects.

In February, Duane Boelman, McGregor’s deputy clerk and economic development lead, said a developer is interested in rehabilitating the building, which dates back to 1877. Timothy J. (T.J.) Sullivan purchased the building in 1905 and, feeling there was a need for an opera house in the community, quickly remodeled the second floor to become the Sullivan Opera House. 

Several years ago, the city of McGregor took over ownership of the building, which had sat empty and fallen into disrepair over the past 20 years, after housing a hardware store on the lower level and apartments upstairs. At a recent meeting, the McGregor council said it would be willing to gift the building to the developer for a small amount.

Boelman said rehabilitation would be completed in two years, strictly following the historic preservation standards set by the Secretary of the Interior.

The large space would include six upstairs apartments, he explained. The downstairs would also be divided up, with the front three portions serving as retail space. The back section closest to the next-door McGregor Historical Museum would be reserved for an expansion of the museum, Boelman added. The other two back portions could either be additional residential units or office space.

“It’s called a community catalyst because they want it to jumpstart other projects in town,” Boelman said. “I think, if we get this looking nice, it would really help.”

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