Dubuque council OKs downtown property purchase; historic buildings to remain

Dubuque City Council members on Monday unanimously supported the purchase of a high-profile downtown property, with plans that it will serve as the site of a new parking ramp.

Council members voted, 7-0, to buy the property at 880 and 898 Central Ave., currently the location of Hendricks Feed & Seed, for $1.7 million.

City officials plan to eventually use part of the 1-acre site to construct a $20 million parking ramp that the city must build as part of a development agreement with Roshek Property LLC; Cottingham & Butler; and Heartland Financial USA. Hendricks Feed & Seed will move to a new location, and the existing historic buildings on the sites will be unscathed, with future plans of their resale by the city.

In late 2019, Cottingham & Butler and Heartland Financial announced plans to purchase the Roshek Building in downtown Dubuque. The city entered into a development agreement with the two companies and promised to construct a 500-space parking facility to meet the added parking needs created by the companies’ expansion in the building. The facility must be completed and opened by Dec. 31, 2023.

Hendricks Feed & Seed can continue to operate rent-free out of the Central Avenue location until Sept. 30, 2022, if it chooses.

City Manager Mike Van Milligen said the city will demolish a metal warehouse on the eastern portion of the property to make way for the new ramp. The historic structures on the west side of the property, where the Hendricks Feed & Seed retail store is located, will not be torn down and eventually will be resold by the city.

“We’re not tearing down any of the historic buildings,” Van Milligen said.

A city assessment of the Hendricks Feed & Seed property valued it at $1.3 million. Online property records show the two parcels span 1 acre in total and have a combined assessed value of a little less than $1.1 million.

An appraisal conducted by Hendricks Feed & Seed valued the property at $1.6 million, according to an email sent by William Hendricks, president of the company.

Hendricks Feed & Seed was founded in Dubuque in 1929 and has operated out of its current location since 1942.

Rick Dickinson, president and CEO of Greater Dubuque Development Corp., offered his support for the property purchase, arguing it will be essential for continued growth in downtown Dubuque.

“This infrastructure is absolutely necessary in order to move the community forward,” he said. “We cannot afford to make decisions tomorrow based on today’s circumstances.”

Council members spoke in favor of the purchase.

Mayor Roy Buol stressed that the move was extensively researched before being presented to the City Council.

“I can guarantee you anything of consequence that is done in this city has a lot of research behind it before it is ever voted on in this city,” Buol said.

Council Member Brad Cavanagh said he supported the property purchase but also added that he wants a more extensive review of the city’s future downtown parking needs before council members vote on approving the parking ramp project.

“We need to be able to address what the parking needs really, truly are,” he said. “We need to make sure we are not effectively building a bridge to nowhere, building a parking structure that nobody is going to park in.”