September 22, 2021

Reinvestment district may benefit Legacy Plaza development, downtown

If city’s application to IEDA is successful, state funds could fund future projects

Legacy Plaza is ready to expand its scope of services and fill vacant space in the former Maytag Corporation headquarters buildings to include 51 market-rate apartments, a 58-room hotel, a lobby and bar and a 500-seat event center, in addition to the 14 or so tenants already occupying the DMACC-owned facility.

To help the estimated $20 million adaptive reuse project, members of the Newton City Council on Monday, Dec. 7, authorized an application to Iowa Economic Development Authority in order to establish a reinvestment district and receive tax-generated funds for transformative development projects.

Both Legacy Plaza and downtown businesses would benefit from this.

If the application is a success, the city intends to continue with and fortify its downtown grant program to make more improvement funds available to small business and property owners located in the downtown historic district of Newton, according to a press release from DMACC.

Joe Pugel, board chair of DMACC, said the application would allow the project to harness state resources to transform “a large footprint that has been underutilized in Newton” since Maytag’s departure.

“With the help of the Reinvestment District Act program, we can see the buildings becoming a big part of community life again on an even grander scale while paying tribute to the legacy that built them,” Pugel said.

This would allow other, complementary projects to take shape, too. Newton Main Street intends to lead a splash pad project between the downtown square and Legacy Plaza and include wayfinding signs along the three-block route connecting the two areas of commerce.

City council members and Newton Mayor Mike Hansen have expressed their excitement in the project and the prospects of a successful application.

Hansen said in the press release, “New development in the downtown/Legacy Plaza area is vitally important to the continued economic viability of Newton. The Legacy Plaza, LLC development team has fashioned an impressive multi-faceted transformational project that will be a significant addition to our community.”

Kim Didier, executive director for DMACC Business Resources, said at the Dec. 7 city council meeting, “On behalf of DMACC, I want to thank you for your support on the Reinvestment District application. DMACC is excited to be working in partnerships with the city, (Newton Development Corporation) and the Legacy Plaza, LLC team to secure these resources for our community.”

DMACC was gifted the former Maytag corporate campus in 2016. Comprised of eight buildings and 482,000 square feet on nearly 14 acres of land, the campus has attracted a number of tenants and foot traffic. OPN Architects has worked alongside DMACC to develop the campus.

Some of the plans include the development of an entertainment, dining and cultural pedestrian mall in the common courtyard that runs through the middle of the former Maytag campus, the press release says. Developers also want a restaurant space to provide internships to culinary students.

Other revenue streams will be needed to fully fund the Legacy Plaza project.

Angela Harrington, principal of Legacy Plaza, LCC, and owner of Hotel Grinnell in Grinnell and The Highlander Hotel in Iowa City, hopes to utilize a variety of development tools to realize the project, including Historic Tax Credits, the Iowa Reinvestment Act and Workforce Credits, among others.

“Catalytic projects in small cities within rural communities don’t pencil out on their own,” Harrington said. “The market size, apartment rent comps, fewer hotel demand generators, population density, investment opportunity cost all work against rural areas when competing against urban areas for capital.

“Programs like the (Iowa Reinvestment Act) mitigate some of the risk that comes with a big project in a small place and without them projects like this would only occur in Iowa’s largest cities.”

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com