SIOUX CITY — The second phase of Ho-Chunk Inc.’s $30 million effort to transform a group of aging industrial buildings in downtown Sioux City into a thriving residential and commercial district is starting to take shape.

The mixed-use project, called Virginia Square, involves extension renovation of three multi-story structures in the 100 block of Virginia Street and the construction of another building.

Following two years of construction, the first phase was completed in December with the opening of 100 Virginia. All 20 modern-industrial style apartments in the three-story structure offers have been leased, said Dennis Johnson, chief investment officer for Ho-Chunk, the economic development corporation for the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska.

Across the street, work on a former five-story cold storage building, renamed 103 Virginia, is nearing completion. In its current layout, 103 Virginia has 20 apartments and seven condos and commercial space. Johnson predicts people will be able to move into the apartments by sometime in October.

“Of the 20 units that we’re renting, we got about a half-dozen that have been pre-reserved already and we are fielding a lot of inquiries weekly on filling them up,” he said. “This building, by all indications, seems like it will lease up pretty fast like 100 Virginia was.”

Apartments, which run between $1,275-$1,650 a month, come in either one or two-bedrooms and range in size from 821-square-feet to 1,430-square feet and come fully loaded with amenities, which include a hallway storage space, quartz countertops, flat panel black slate cabinetry, stainless steel appliances and fixtures, polished concrete flooring in the living spaces and bathrooms and “very modern ” carpeting covering the bedroom floors.

While showcasing one of the third-floor corner apartments, Johnson pointed out the unit’s 12-foot high loft style ceiling that showcased exposed duct work and original building fixtures. He also highlighted the nearly floor-to-ceiling glass windows that are accentuated by exposed brick. The windows offer panoramic views of downtown Sioux City and provide an abundance of natural light.

“These were bricked in if you look back a few years ago and if you look at some pictures of the building,” Johnson said. “We took it back to the original openings that were bricked-in over the years.”

Renters in 103 Virginia also have the option to pay an additional $75 a month to live in a climate-controlled indoor parking garage that can hold up to 30 vehicles on a first come first served basis. Seven of the indoor parking spots are reserved for condo owners.

Additionally, all residential tenants have access to a fully-equipped third-floor fitness center, a second-floor community room that can be rented out for private functions but that also will serve as an event space for residents and access to a fourth-floor rooftop patio with a rubber brick walking surface and that faces Historic Fourth Street.

Besides all the internal amenities 103 offers, Johnson noted its location adjacent to the riverfront, Interstate 29 and the Fourth Street District, all in walking distance, is another perk.

“That’s another one of the great features; you’re going to have pedestrian access underneath I-29 getting to the new riverfront development that the city is working on,” he said. “As those plans get implemented over the next couple of years, you have the most easiest access to the riverfront.”

The seven condo units — one of which has already been purchased — provide the same internal and external amenities as the apartment units, but really showcase why they sell for no less than $415,000 on the inside.

Condos range from 1,545-square-feet to 2,245-square-feet and each unit occupies the fourth and fifth floor of 103 Virginia.

The first floor serves as a living quarters and features an immense living room, a decked out kitchen and a half bath. The fourth-floor houses two spacious bedrooms that each have a private full bath and there’s a reading nook connected to the master bathroom that overlooks the stairwell.

Similar to the apartment units in design, the condos contain stainless steel appliances and fixtures, modern cabinetry and panoramic views of the city. However, they differ in that they also have fireplaces and a sectioned off private rooftop patio that faces the Missouri River.

While future occupants of 103 Virginia have to wait a few more weeks before they can move in, commercial tenants are already piling in.

Keller Williams of Siouxland moved into the first floor of 103 Virginia St. in August becoming the first tenant of the mixed-use development.

The real estate agency occupies about 5,000-square-feet and an additional 5,000-square-feet of first-floor commercial space is under-construction. Part of that second offering of commercial space may already be off the table.

“We are finalizing details with a fabulous insurance company,” Johnson said. The unnamed potential tenant would occupy about 2,500-square-feet of first-floor commercial space should that deal close.

The third flood of 103 Virginia also was slated to become commercial space, but Johnson said Ho-Chunk is reevaluating that.

“We’ve just had such success and demand downtown that I think creating those as residential units would have almost immediate demand,” he said.

If Ho-Chunk goes forward with creating additional apartments at 103 Virginia, Johnson estimates the building would house 30 units total. Overall, he said the building about 85 percent complete.

Meanwhile, 100 Virginia is complete. with the exception of Table 32, a restaurant that will occupy the structure's first floor and is weeks away from opening.

“Give or take a few weeks is what I just told this morning,” Johnson said during an early September interview. “It’s going to be a fabulous splash to the community and just to bring another exceptional dining option. (A) top-class premier dining venue to the downtown area and we are excited it’s in Virginia Square."

Table 32 is being developed by the Miller family, the former owners and creators of Bev’s on the River. Bev's was replaced earlier this year by Crave, a growing Twin Cities-based chain.

“They are a proven commodity,” Johnson said of the Miller family.

With two of the four Virginia Square buildings complete, Ho-Chunk is working on the final phases.

In the next six months, construction is slated to start on 101 Virginia Square, located directly north of 103 Virginia. A previous industrial structure was razed after being found unsuitable for redevelopment. The new building set to replace it will house a 45 unit apartment complex and retail space.

A fourth building, called 102 Virginia and directly south of 100 Virginia, may become home to a five-story 90-room Hilton extended stay hotel. Johnson said that deal is not 100 percent certain.

“We’re still evaluating the feasibility of it and if we want to go in that direction,” he said.

The first three phases of Virginia Square were about a $25 million investment. Should Ho-Chunk pursue the hotel, Johson said the development's cost will increase to about $30 million.

While this project carries a hefty price tag, Johnson noted strong support from the city and state through incentives and other means have helped matters. Virginia Square is one of the components of the Sioux City Reinvestment District the Iowa Economic Development Authorityy Board awarded $13.5 million in state tax credits in August.

Dollars and cents aside, Johnson also said the Ho-Chunk views this project as an investment in growing Siouxland and increasing downtown's appeal. He also hopes it spurs other developers to join the effort.

"It takes more than one us; we can only do so many ourselves," Johnson said.  "We are trying to do it all but the reality is it will take a long time if we are the only player.

"...If a couple of other participants join this redevelopment, I think, in the next few years we'll definitely see a huge positive change not only in the downtown corridor. ... With any vibrant city, one of the common denominators is they have a strong, vibrant downtown and as we strengthen the core of our city it will have ripple effects for all of Siouxland."

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