Historic Epworth building demolished to pave way for new commercial, residential space

Business owner Dave Koss watches the demolition of a portion of his building at the corner of Main Street and North Center Avenue in Epworth, Iowa, on Wednesday. PHOTO CREDIT: Dave Kettering

EPWORTH, Iowa — A historic building in downtown Epworth is being demolished and will be replaced with a new structure that will offer both commercial space and residential living.

“We had a fire in an apartment upstairs a year and a half ago, and it’s pretty extensive damage, and with the structure, the foundation wasn’t great,” said Dave Koss, who owns the building. “We decided to knock it down and put up the new structure.”

The fire destroyed the apartment unit and damaged businesses Heiberger Insurance, Cox Optical, Epworth TV & Satellite and The Pizza Factory, which were all housed in the same building.

The oldest section of the building, which is being torn down, has existed since at least 1900 and was once known as Maxwell’s Store, said City Clerk Janet Berger. Two additional sections have been added onto the old building over the years.

The middle section of the building where Heiberger Insurance once operated is being renovated into an apartment unit, Koss said. The space where The Pizza Factory sits will remain the same. The new addition will no longer be attached to The Pizza Factory but will be located about 10 feet away.

“It’s kind of sad to see an old building go down, but we are kind of excited about the new structure,” he said.

Koss said work to tear down the old building was delayed by the cold weather last month but started this week. He hopes to have the new building ready for tenants to move in this summer.

The new building located on East Main Street will include two commercial spaces, which will each be about 900 square feet, and a pair of 800-square-foot upstairs apartment units, Koss said.

“I hope it brings a new look to town,” he said. “It will be one of the first buildings you’ll see as you come in (to Epworth). I am sad to see the old building go because it was kind of a unique building, but sometimes you have to keep progressing.”

Berger said the city received a $100,000 grant from the Iowa Economic Development Authority under a state Community Catalyst Building Remediation program to put toward the project.

“Downtowns have long been a symbol of a community’s economic viability,” she said. “This location is the heart of downtown and is a key factor because it is central to town. The mixed use is also an asset because both types will be attractive for our downtown.”