Long-ago school in Dubuque to feature revamped apartments

Community conversation on housing

Lloyd Singletary will be among panelists featured at the “Let’s talk about housing” event today presented by the Telegraph Herald and Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque. The event will be the first in a series of community conversations.

The event will run from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Steeple Square, 101 E. 15th St. To RSVP, visit DEIdbq.com. 

The event also will be livestreamed at telegraphherald.com.

A vacant Dubuque apartment building that once served as a school is getting a new lease on life.

The building at 1199 Central Ave. is undergoing a complete renovation which, when completed, will open up 14 new apartments downtown. The $1.2 million project could be completed by the end of the year.

“I feel like there are people in Dubuque that want nicer things, and I know a number of landlords here now, and I would just like to be part of a trend toward nicer things for people that are renting here,” said Lloyd Singletary, owner of the Pennsylvania-based Virtual Velocity, which is developing the project.

Once completed, the Central 12 Lofts will feature apartments ranging in size from a studio to a four-bedroom, three-bath unit. Most of the apartments will be two-bedroom, two-bath units.

The ceilings in the apartments are being returned to almost their original height, and most units will have ceilings at least 12 feet high, allowing them to accommodate large windows. Apartments on the third floor will have lofts.

Units are being built out to accommodate “smart” features so tenants can control items such as lighting with their phones, and the apartments also will able to access fiber internet service.

“It’s a complete renovation,” Singletary said. “We literally removed everything except for the bricks and the floor joists and the floors.”

Rental rates have not been set yet.

“I like nice spaces,” Singletary said. “What I’m catering toward is people that like nice spaces, and we will let the market determine what the rents will be.”

The building long has been used as apartments, though its history stretches back much further.

The site once was home to the old Prescott School — originally called the Third Ward School — from the 1850s until 1913. A Telegraph Herald article published in 1960 states that Dubuque’s first high school opened in 1858 on the Third Ward School’s upper floor.

The building later was converted into apartments, though it had fallen into disrepair and sat vacant for about a decade, Singletary said. Virtual Velocity LLC purchased the building in July 2021.

“I’m the crazy one that’s trying to make it go,” he said.

Alexis Steger, housing and community development director for the City of Dubuque, likewise noted that the building has been vacant for some time, so it was good to see a developer take interest in the project. City staff are trying to help keep the project moving as quickly as possible, she said.

“It’s good to see that rehab,” Steger said. “It’s always slower when you have a building that’s vacant that long. There’s just more to the interior buildout.”

The Central 12 Lofts project will help with the community’s significant need for housing units, she said. Addressing those needs will require that some vacant buildings in the community come back into use as housing.

She also noted that the Central 12 Lofts are in a particularly good location because of their proximity to Prescott Elementary School, Multicultural Family Center and City Hall.

“It’s going to attract a variety of people that really love that lifestyle,” Steger said.

Singletary, who is from Philadelphia but is living in Dubuque while work on the Central 12 Lofts is underway, likewise noted that he has observed the need for more housing units in Dubuque.

In addition to the apartment project, Singletary previously completed an extensive renovation to half of a duplex on Almond Street. He said he still is determining his plans for after the current work is completed but that he is open to working on more housing projects locally.

“If things continue to go well, I don’t see why not,” he said.