SIOUX CITY -- Zac Cunha is looking forward to moving into a two-bedroom apartment at Bluebird Flats in Sioux City's downtown, a neighborhood that's trending once again.
Cunha, Briar Cliff University's football coach, said he and his fiancée chose to reside downtown at Bluebird Flats, in part, because they can easily walk to shops and restaurants.
"We really like the building and just the style -- the retro feels with modern touches," Cunha said on the day he was set to pick up the keys to his apartment, which features a spacious open-concept kitchen/living area and large windows. "I really like the history of the building, as well."
J Development has spent the past several years developing the old Commerce Building, a brick structure at 520 Nebraska St., into Bluebird Flats. The complex features 71 apartments and roughly 12,000 square feet of commercial space. The Omaha-based developer also renovated the Hatch Building, 413 Pierce St., into Copper Flats, 30 one- and two-bedroom apartments and a vast retail space. Both properties offer rooftop decks with firepits.
"We love old buildings. We love to restore them and make new uses for them. We just really felt that Sioux City has so many great assets and art and culture. What it was missing was lot of options for downtown housing," said Julie Stavneak, principle with J Development. "The more people who live downtown, the more successful the businesses are."
Sioux City Economic Development Director Marty Dougherty said rehabbing historic buildings into living spaces is a strategy that Des Moines, Omaha and other cities across the country have taken to revitalize their downtowns.
"When you have older historic buildings, they start to become functionally obsolete. Maybe they were built as office buildings, but the upper floor spaces are not large enough by today's standards," he said. "A strategy that a lot of places have followed, and we've been following in Sioux City, is see if you can get these buildings renovated and maybe use the first and second floors for commercial uses and use the upper floors for residential. The key there is we're trying to make that be market-rate residential."
Dougherty said having a lot of people residing there not only brings life and activity to downtown, but it also provides a lot of support for restaurants and other businesses.
"I think it's working. I think it's effective," he said of the strategy. "You see one by one these historic buildings being renovated and filling up with people. And then, the other cool thing is, after you get to a certain level, you kind of start to run out of those buildings and you start to see new buildings built."
Stavneak said the "hip, cool, lofty, urban apartments" that Bluebird Flats and Copper Flats offer appeal to young professionals, many of whom moved in from out of town.