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Castle on the Hill being transformed into homes
A portion of the old Central High School building is being remodeled into apartments. (Staff photo by Tim Hynds)

The former Sioux City Central High School, familiarly known as the Castle on the Hill, is undergoing a transformation into unique and affordable housing units.

NuStyle Development Corp. of Omaha is the developer for the project to add 75 apartments to a property once thought to have a date with a wrecking ball. Demolition began in late summer to clear the building and make way for improvements.

Tammy Barrett, co-owner of NuStyle, said the apartments should be completed and open for occupancy in September.

"I think it's going to be some of the best apartments in Sioux City," she said. "They will have a lot of amenities."

Included will be washer and dryer, stoves, a refrigerator with an ice maker and microwave. All of the electrical and mechanical systems are new and each unit will have separate furnaces and air conditioners.

People who have moved into other NuStyle projects, such as loft apartments in the Omaha Old Market, report being happy with their new homes. Typical types of tenants include the empty nesters who are tired of household chores, young professionals and students.

"They love the urban lifestyle," she said.

Recently, Bob Heffernan, site superintendent with NuStyle Construction Corp., led a tour of the construction site as workers transformed an abandoned school into living space. Heffernan said the work was made easier because care was taken to keep the roof intact and the building closed from the elements.

Steel studs formed the skeleton of rooms to be, and electric and gas lines ran from room to room. In several of the units, the large shower/bathtub units were already in place.

Unique features of some of the apartments will include high ceilings, hardwood floors, chalk boards, large windows and space in the castle turrets. Apartments in the former chemistry rooms will have quarry tile floors.

The old building that was once a large school posed several challenges compared to fitting apartments into a building such as an open warehouse, Barrett said. There is a huge auditorium that costs a lot of money to fix up but is not a revenue generator. They also had to work around hallways and existing stairwells.

Built in 1892, the Castle on the Hill is a historic landmark in Sioux City and is on the National Register of Historic Places. NuStyle is renovating the building into low to moderate and market rate apartments while maintaining the historic integrity of the auditorium, the gymnasium and the hallways. Of the 75 units, 55 will be affordable to low-income families (rent limited, and 20 will rent at market rents (in the $450 to $525 range). The project is expected to cost $9.175 million.

Forming a limited liability company to hold ownership of the building, NuStyle is the general contractor, developer and managing agent of the property, owning 0.9 of a percent. The Castle on the Hill Association is a nonprofit partner, owning 0.1 of a percent. A corporate investor, Midwest Housing Equity Fund, a nonprofit formed from financial corporations, will stay in the project for a required holding period of 15 years, with an option to sell to either NuStyle or the Castle on the Hill Association for a predetermined price.

The gymnasium and auditorium would be leased to the Castle on the Hill Association for $1 per year. The association may then sublet the space to commercial contracts.

Several funding sources were also critical in getting the project going, including grants from the Iowa Department of Economic Development, the city of Sioux City, and Federal Home Loan Bank of Topeka, Kan.

In June of 2002, the Sioux City Council approved a request from NuStyle to rezone 610 13th St. to allow construction of an off-street parking lot on the northeast corner of 12th and Jackson streets.

Plans call for parking along 13th Street to be converted into 90-degree angle stalls and shifted far enough to the south to retain two driving lanes and parallel parking on the north side of 13th Street. Barrett said they are still working out some of the parking and space sharing issues.


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