The vacant Battery Building stands to gain new life housing upscale condominiums, offices and a restaurant under a $10.5 million restoration plan for the century-old warehouse in downtown Sioux City.
Roger and Jane Bomgaars, owners of the four-story brick structure at 232 Water St., have formed a partnership with Omaha-based developers Jim and Jane Hamlin to tackle the mixed-use project. The two couples unveiled their plans in a meeting last week with Journal editors and reporters.
"It will ultimately create a cornerstone address in downtown Sioux City," said Jim Hamlin, vice president of the Hamlin Group LLC. "The proximity to downtown and the Tyson Events Center will bring a truly urban feel to our residents and to our commercial space."
The landmark building, with its signature six-story clocktower, is the former corporate offices and central warehouse for Bomgaars, a regional retail chain headed by Roger and Jane Bomgaars. The redevelopment project, called the Clocktower on Water Street, would convert the upper three floors into 54 loft-style condo units, with price tags ranging from around $170,000 to $300,000. About 13,000 square feet of Class A office space would be carved out of the first-floor, while a one-story annex on the north side would be home to a 6,000-square-foot restaurant.
Hamlin said his group has had conversations with several potential commercial tenants, including some major restaurant chains, but was not prepared to identify any of them.
The design calls for unique amenities such as a glass-enclosed, two-story atrium and lush park-like green spaces that would tie into the adjacent Perry Creek trail system.
Hamlin said the multi-million dollar investment would expand the city's tax rolls and bring added residents and visitors to downtown. It also would complement the realigned Wesley Parkway and launch the city's proposed West End District project.
Citing the public benefits, the Hamlins and Bomgaarses are asking the city for $735,000 in Tax Increment Financing to help fund the restoration, and to vacate portions of Fourth and Mills streets to enlarge the site for added parking and landscaping. The City Council is scheduled to discuss the request at an April 9 study session.
City economic development director Marty Dougherty, who has been working with the developers, noted the Clocktower on Water Street would become downtown's first market-rate condo project.
"We think that's very significant," Dougherty said. "We're excited to bring this to the City Council for approval. We believe it will be a key component of the planned revitalization of the west end of downtown."
The Romanesque revival-styled warehouse, noted for details such as its rooftop battlements and large arched doorways and windows, was completed in 1906 for the Simmons Hardware Co. From 1944 to 1956, it housed the Sioux City Battery Co. Even after it became home to Bomgaars' offices and central warehouse in 1973, it continued to be known as the Battery Building,
Two years ago, Bomgaars moved all of its offices and warehousing to the former Zenith complex. Some five years prior to vacating the Battery Building, Roger and Jane Bomgaars, president and vice president, respectively, of the family-owned and operated business, began investigating different redevelopment ideas, talking to groups as far away as Pennsylvania.
Putting together a top-notch project was important to the couple because the company had spent considerable dollars to maintain and improve the building over the years. The cost of tuckpointing just one side of the brick structure, for instance, runs nearly as much as the $135,000 Roger Bomgaars' grandfather paid to buy the building, he said.
The Hamlins, Roger Bomgaars said, came up with the "most unique and thorough vision" of any of the proposals he and his wife considered.
"Besides the vision itself, the single most important characteristic is probably their passion for the project," Bomgaars said. "They bring a true passion for the area, the building and the possibility of what it could be."
The project is a coming home of sorts for Jim Hamlin, who grew up in South Sioux City, attended Morningside College and previously worked at Dakota County State Bank in South Sioux City. In 1985, he left Siouxland for a commercial real estate lending position in Omaha.
Since 1998, he has worked in real estate development. His Omaha-based firm, Farnam Group Resources, has developed projects valued at more than $71 million.
Jane and Jim Hamlin are president and vice president, respectively, of the Omaha-based Hamlin Group LLC, which develops, leases and manages real estate throughout the Midwest. The couple have previous historic preservation experience, including the recent renovation of two properties in Bartlesville, Okla.
Last summer, the Hamlins traveled to South Sioux City for a soccer tournament. While in the area, the Battery Building caught their attention.
"I looked at this building in a totally different way than I had when I grew up here," Jim Hamlin said. "We spent about an hour driving around the building, taking pictures and came up with the vision for this. We met with Roger and Jane and shared our vision and it's taken off from there."
For their contribution to the partnership with the Hamlin Group LLC, Roger and Jane Bomgaars donated the building, which is listed with a current value of $1.5 million.
Early spring opening
The developers hope to begin construction in early to mid-summer, and have the first condos ready for occupancy by early spring of 2008, Jane Hamlin said. If all goes well, the offices and restaurant also would come on line around that time, she said.
Presale of condo units will begin immediately, she said. Once the renovation is complete, it's expected to take up to four years to sell all 54 units.
"We're blazing a trail to a point, especially with the type of building this is and the type of units we're going to offer," Jim Hamlin said. "We're very confident the market is here, between young professionals, empty-nesters and retired professionals who don't want to take care of their yards any more."
Units in the tower and on the corners of the fourth floor, with its higher ceilings, are expected to be among the most popular. During a tour of the warehouse last week, Roger Bomgaars opened one of the top-floor windows, giving his guests a panoramic look at the riverfront and city skyline below. "It'd be a great view from up here," he said.
The loft condos would be 2- to 3-bedroom units ranging in size from 948 square feet to 2,104 square feet. Twenty-four units would be in excess of 1,500 square feet.
Residents could choose from a variety of floor plans that incorporate historic elements of the building, including exposed brick and tongue-in-groove timber framing. At the same time, they'll enjoy all the modern comforts, such as high-efficiency heating and cooling systems, soundproofing and new mechanical systems, ceramic tile floors, gourmet kitchens and high-speed Internet.
"While we've retained the architectural features of the building, everything will be new on the inside," Jim Hamlin said.
Residents also will have the services of a doorman and daytime concierge, and access to a fitness center and private 20-seat movie theater within the building. In addition, a two-room boutique hotel will offer lodging for overnight guests of residents.
A focal point of the Clocktower on Water Street will be a two-story atrium running through the middle of the building. The atrium will occupy the large open area where rail cars once pulled into the building to load and unload hardware. A brick wall erected some 70 years ago chopped up that space.
Overhead doors on the southwest and northeast ends of the atrium area will be replaced with glass. Condo owners will enter on the south end, where fountains and gardens will be on display. To get to their floors, they will ride a glass elevator on the east side of the atrium. An open pedestrian bridge will provide access to units on the opposite side.
Customers of the offices and restaurants would enter on the northeast end. An interior glass wall near the south end would keep the public from entering the condo areas, but will give residents access to the offices and restaurant, Jim Hamlin said.
There would be parking on each end of the building. The developers are asking the city to vacate a dead-end segment of Fourth Street, at its intersection with Water Street, and the seldom-used Mills Street, a short, old-fashioned brick street on the northeast end. Hamlin said the vacations would allow the developers to tie its landscaping into the city's Perry Creek trail system green spaces.
Under a proposed agreement with the city, the developers would receive $735,000 in Tax Increment Financing, with increased property taxes from the project going to repay the infrastructure investment. The developers would agree to a minimum tax assessment that eventually would total $12.3 million.
Backers believe the Clocktower on Water Street would jump start more development in the area of downtown known as the West End district. The Battery Building is the western anchor of the cultural and entertainment district, which extends east to the Historic Fourth Street District.
For more information on The Clocktower on Water Street, including presale of condo units, visit www.clocktoweronwaterstreet.com or contact Jane Hamlin at (402) 669-0619 (mobile) or email: email@example.com