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136 apartments planned for Commerce Building, former Methodist hospital

SIOUX CITY | The historic Commerce Building will be converted into 76 apartments, retail space and modern offices under a $14.6 million renovation plan for the 105-year-old downtown Sioux City structure.

The same Council Bluffs, Iowa-based developer also plans to rehabilitate the 1924 building that served as the original Methodist Hospital at 2831 Douglas St. into 60 market-rate apartments through a separate project valued at $12 million.

J Development Co. LLC will seek a combined $1.5 million in state tax credits from the Iowa Economic Development Board Friday to help finance the two historic redevelopment projects. 

Also on Friday, the state board will consider nearly $913,000 of tax credits for the previously announced project planned by Restoration St. Louis to renovate the historic Warrior Hotel and adjacent Davidson Building into a 146-room Marriott Hotel, retail and living space. 

J Development's $14.6 million redevelopment of the Commerce Building at 520 Nebraska St. will include a total rehabilitation of the five-story building and a conversion from office space to a mixed-use property, according to IEDA documents.

The first floor will be used for both commercial and residential purposes, with floors two through five designated as market-rate apartments. The project is expected to create 76 living units and 10,000 to 15,000 feet of commercial space. 

The $12.1 million redevelopment of the former hospital into 60 market-rate apartment units will include removal of asbestos and other environmental contaminants, according to IEDA documents. 

The state board at its monthly meeting Friday in Des Moines will consider awarding a Brownfield tax credit valued at up to $750,000 for the Commerce Building project, contingent upon submission of financing commitment letters within six months of the board's approval date. 

The board will consider a Grayfield tax credit for the former Methodist Hospital project valued at up to $750,000, also contingent upon the submission of financing commitments within that time frame. 

The Warrior/Davidson redevelopment, made public this summer, will seek a Grayfield tax credit on Friday of up to $912,665 for the renovation of the Warrior and Davidson buildings in the 500 block of Sixth Street.

The city of Sioux City has scheduled a 11 a.m. Friday news conference to formally announce the Commerce Building project. J Development representatives declined comment Thursday. 

The Commerce Building was originally built in 1912 by the C.F. Lytle Co. as the Ralph A. Bennett's Motor Mart Building, according to the Sioux City Historic Preservation Commission. The four-story building housed his auto supply company and included a 10-by-20-foot freight elevator to lift automobiles for display on the upper stories of the structure. 

Amy Hynds / Photo by Woodworth Commercial Photos 

This undated photo shows the Commerce Building located at 520 Nebraska St. in Sioux City. The C.F. Lytle Co. built this structure in 1913 as the Motor Mart for Bennett Auto Supply.

In 1919, the Sioux City Chamber of Commerce moved its offices to the building, which eventually became commonly known as the Commerce Building.

A fifth floor was added in 1921 and housed Tom Archer’s Roof Garden. It later became a music hall and dance club called the Skylon Ballroom. Lawrence Welk and his band performed there in 1939 before he signed with Decca. The building also served as the home of the Sioux City Art Center from 1953 until 1961, when the center moved into the Municipal Auditorium. 

Several recent tenants of the building, including the Yoga College of Sioux City, several studio artists and the Disabilities Resource Center, have told the Journal over the past few months they have moved out of the premises. Existing tenants include a field office for Iowa 4th District Rep. Steve King.

The former Methodist Hospital became a part of UnityPoint Health -- St. Luke's campus when the Methodist and Lutheran hospitals merged in 1966 to form St. Luke's. 

The former Methodist Hospital is pictured above. A Council Bluffs, Iowa-based developer is planning a $12 million renovation to the 1924 structure that will transform it into 60 market-rate apartments.

The Methodist hospital -- which became known as St. Luke's West Building -- served as a maternity ward until 1979 when St. Luke's moved its birthing unit to the current hospital. In later years, the former Methodist hospital housed Meals on Wheels, hospital business offices and the county morgue. The hospital closed the aging building, the oldest structure on its campus, in September 2005. It has remained empty ever since. 

St. Luke's spokeswoman Suzie Fischer told the Journal Thursday afternoon the property is still owned by the hospital, pending the closing of the sale. 

Under plans announced this summer, St. Louis-based Restoration St. Louis will restore the historic Warrior Hotel and Davidson Building in the 600 block of Sixth Street. As part of a $57.1 million plan, the 200,000 square feet of combined space will be turned into a 146-room Marriott brand hotel, retail space and apartments.

The Warrior will become a full-service hotel with a six-lane bowling alley, bar, swimming pool and full fitness center. The first-floor lobby will include retail space and a full-service restaurant. The second floor will include a grand lobby, ballroom and conference rooms, with floors three through 10 including 92 hotel rooms. The rooftop will hold a bar and bistro. 

The neighboring Davidson Building will also be renovated to include commercial space on the first floor, 54 hotel rooms on floors two through four, and 22 luxury apartments on floors five and six. 

Construction is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2018, with completion anticipated for summer of 2019.

GALLAGHER: Corn, beans faring better than expected


VERMILLION, S.D. | For more than seven decades, Nels Sorensen has made his way around the fields south and west of Vermillion, not far from the Missouri River.

Autumn colors lit the sky on Wednesday morning, silver maples and cottonwoods along the Vermillion River playing off rich hues below, the oranges, yellows and browns of drying corn and soybean plants.

"I farm where my grandfather and father did," said Sorensen, pointing east toward son, Grant, who was pulling into the field. "And Grant is farming now."

Nels Sorensen, 73, began farming after high school. He's still at it, 55 years later. His grandfather farmed by using horses. His dad worked up to 2- and 4-row equipment. On Wendesday, Sorensen piloted a 670 John Deere with a 40-foot flex draper bean head, almost gliding through the field as soybeans moved right to left below him, the hulking machine spitting dust in all directions.

"This unit would cost around $350,000," Sorensen said.

One needs an abundance of corn and soybeans, of course, to pencil it out.

"This is the pay-day," Sorensen added, voice rising. "This is my favorite time of year, when you get out to enjoy the fruits of your labor."

Those "fruits" seemed to be faring well, despite a summer season marked by a prolonged stretch of drought in some areas.

"I'm very surprised with our yields," he said. "They're way better as we had dry weather following a wet spring."

The family's soybean crop, across the first 100 acres at least, averaged in the 65- to 70-bushel range. The 10-percent moisture reading on those beans also puzzled Sorensen a bit, as the region took in six inches of rain in the past two weeks.

Across their initial 200 acres of corn, the Sorensens have realized yields averaging 220 bushels per acre. Moisture content on corn came to 20 percent.

Some 125 miles away in Northwest Iowa, Iowa State University Extension Field Specialist Paul Kassel took some time for his own harvest. Kassel was pleased to see the weather this week, gray skies and rain finally way to sunshine, temperatures in the 70s and light winds.

"It's been a great change in the weather," said Kassel, who is based in Spencer. "A lot of farmers may finish soybeans here this week."

Yields around Iowa's Clay County (not to be confused with the South Dakota county), check in at the low- to mid-60s for soybeans. Kassel has heard guys talk of yields dipping from a phenomenal 2016 harvest to equal a 2015 effort, he termed as "exceptional."

"That dry weather in July maybe had an impact as some of the beans couldn't quite recover even with the August rains," he said.

Going from phenomenal to "only" exceptional may explain, in part, a recent 23-cent soybean rally. Corn, on the other hand, remains flat for Sorensen, right at the $3 per bushel, or off 60 percent from the price seen five years ago.

"There's quite a little corn around," Sorensen said. "It's amazing how corn has been bred-up to withstand the extremes."

Then again, he concluded, "You've got to have a lot of it at these prices."

Pearl Street Park

SIOUX CITY | The city's first downtown park was dedicated Thursday afternoon.

The Parks and Recreation Department held a grand opening for Pearl Street Park, a half-acre recreational space at 620 Pearl St. 

The park was built on the site of a former parking lot. It features paved walking paths, play surfaces, shade structures and stone boulders. 

The majority of the funding for the park came from a $500,000 donation by Regina Roth, a community leader and co-founder of Dakota Dunes-based Beef Products Inc.  

Lamb Theatre eyes move to former KCAU studios

SIOUX CITY | The Lamb Arts Regional Theatre plans to purchase and refurbish the historic downtown building that most recently served as the KCAU television studios.

The Sioux City performing arts group's renovation plans call for restoring the 108-year-old building at 625 Douglas St. to its original state. The space would feature a 200-plus seat theater on the main floor, as well as a 50-seat cabaret-style bar, an open-air stairway that would lead to upper-floor classrooms and a 120-seat studio theater, according to plans detailed in agenda documents for Monday's Sioux City Council meeting.

The redesign also would include a two-story atrium to serve community rentals, meetings and gatherings before theater events. 

The council on Monday will decide whether to approve a development agreement that would award Lamb a $350,000 loan to purchase the property from a private owner. The city has scheduled a news conference outside the building at 10 a.m. Friday.

Lamb Productions, a nonprofit, plans to acquire the building from its current owner, the Archer Family Trust, for $350,000 and has signed a purchase agreement contingent on city assistance. The public loan would be secured by a mortgage on the property that would be repaid over a one-year period. In the event Lamb cannot pay the loan, the property would revert to the city.

Lamb Productions plans to launch a fundraising campaign to repay the city loan and to restore the building. An estimate of how much the restoration will cost was not included in the city documents. Lamb founders and owners Russ and Diana Wooley refused comment Thursday.

Founded by the couple in 1979, Lamb has, for the past 31 years, leased the former Webster School building at 417 Market St. from the city. According to city documents, the theater has outgrown its existing space and hopes to relocate to the larger building downtown to increase its public presence. 



The prominent downtown building at the southwest corner of Seventh and Douglas streets, across the street from the Woodbury County Courthouse, was built as the city's first auditorium in 1909 at a cost of about $50,000. Local residents supported the construction by purchasing $100 certificates.

The building was used as an auditorium until 1947, when it became the Tomba Ballroom. It was operated by KCAU as a television studio from 1956 to early 2017.

The structure has been vacant since February when KCAU moved its studios to 5993 Gordon Drive.

Jason Cowley / Provided by Sioux City Public Museum 

The landmark structure at the southwest corner of Seventh and Douglas Streets is shown in a circa 1912 photo from the Sioux City Public Museum. Built in 1909, it was originally used as a municipal auditorium. 

City documents say the Wooleys want to restore the historic auditorium to its performing arts roots. 

A preliminary engineering review of the building has shown no significant structural defects that would prevent refurbishment. FEH Design has developed a concept for the reuse of the facility, according to documents. 

City staff sees the project as a boost for the downtown area and an enhancement to the area that has recently seen the addition of Pearl Street Park and the Launch Pad Children's Museum, according to documents.