Maquoketa hopes to land grant for 2nd phase of facade program

MAQUOKETA, Iowa — As the first half of Maquoketa’s downtown facade project nears completion, city officials are working to secure funding for a second phase.

City Council members this week authorized the submission of an application for a $500,000 state grant that would cover facade renovations to about 12 commercial buildings on the east side of Main Street.

In 2019, the city received a similar grant and began facade work on about 12 buildings on the west side of Main. Updates included tuckpointing, repairing decorative cornices and replacing windows, doors and awnings.

Nic Hockenberry, director of Jackson County Economic Alliance, said that the project was divided into two phases because of the “overwhelming response” by Main Street property owners interested in being part of the renovations.

“It was apparent that we would need to find a way to split it up to really accomplish the transformative impact of the program,” he said. “Our intent has always been to apply to the east side as the next phase.”

Hockenberry said the city applied for the grant for the east side of Main in 2020 but was not chosen. He said officials hope their success with the West Side renovations — which should be completed by the end of this year — will indicate their commitment and preparedness to tackle the East Side.

If the city is awarded the grant, Hockenberry said, officials hope to go to bid on the project by the end of 2021 and begin construction in 2022. Under the terms of the grant, construction must be completed within two years.

As with the first grant, the city would provide $500,000 in matching funds, divided evenly between city funds and property owner contributions.

Interim City Manager Mallory Smith said completing the project is crucial to updating the overall look of the downtown area.

“Certainly, we’re excited about doing a second phase of it because we can see the transformation caused by doing the west side of the street,” she said. “… This is one of the last pieces of the puzzle.”

Hockenberry said the work on the West Side of Main has attracted new business owners, including Maquoketa native Robert Abbott, who plans to open an entrepreneurship hub and co-working space called Innovate 120 in the former U.S. Bank space at 120 S. Main St.

“Part of the reason we were able to bring this (business) into the building was because we had this grant available to them,” Hockenberry said. “The building is glazed terracotta, a bright white building, but it needed some love. … It was great to be able to bring an architect and some facade specialists who are working on this building to give it a facelift.”