June 20, 2021

Reinvention through rehabilitation

Newton could earn millions in state funds for Legacy Plaza, other projects

Newton may be another step closer to fulfilling its “comeback story.”

After presenting the Legacy Plaza redevelopment project to the Iowa Economic Development Authority Board in late April, stakeholders could be awarded millions of dollars in state funds to reinvent Newton’s image and bolster the city’s economy in a post-Maytag era.

“Which is huge,” Newton Community Development Director Erin Chambers said. “There’s not a lot of opportunity for non-local dollars to go into these redevelopment projects. So this is a great opportunity to access dollars from the state level.”

Provided the IEDA Board accepts the city’s application to designate a portion of its downtown as a reinvestment district, future sales tax and hotel/motel tax revenues generated within the district’s boundaries could go towards new projects like the redevelopment of Legacy Plaza in Newton.

IEDA will make $100 million available to select communities, which could be chosen as early as May 21. However, the board will likely make a final decision sometime next year after cities submit a follow-up application with more details. Currently, only six communities presented to IEDA.

Kim Didier, executive director of DMACC Business Resources, said Newton was the smallest community to pitch its projects to the IEDA and also asked for the least amount of state assistance. Newton requested more than $15 million in state funds be distributed to its projects.

If the city’s application is accepted by the IEDA and the reinvestment district is established, Chambers said the state funding will funnel through to the City of Newton and be distributed in regular payments over a 20-year period.

Dubbed the Newton Legacy Iowa Reinvestment District, the 74.85-acre area would be broken up into three main factions of projects helmed by the key stakeholders: Catalyst Development Newton LLC, Des Moines Area Community College and the City of Newton.

Catalyst Development Newton LLC is leading the charge of an adaptive reuse project in four of the eight Maytag campus buildings. Included will be 51 market-rate apartments, a 58-room boutique hotel, a craft cocktail lobby bar and a 500-seat event center.

DMACC is aiming to improve infrastructure at Legacy Plaza, particularly in the courtyard. Didier said the construction a public green space and commons area was also included in the proposal. Two academic programs, applied engineering technology and cyber security, would also be added to DMACC.

The City of Newton’s project is for a “resiliency zone,” which includes the designs, preparations and construction of a bike trail and splash pad. The city would also continue fortifying its downtown grant programs for small businesses and improve road infrastructure in the district.

All three projects are estimated to cost more than $44 million in total.

“Let Newton be that rural, impossible odds, David and Goliath comeback story,” Angela Harrington, project developer of Legacy Plaza, LLC, said in a May 7 press release. “With this project, Newton has a chance to rewrite its story. To become a cool city, a city with a vibrant glowing economy again.”

The departure of Maytag was a huge blow to Newton, whose very identity was intrinsically tied to the family-owned corporation. In their presentation to the IEDA Board, stakeholders said there was no bigger blow to the city’s economy than to have 70 percent of its jobs disappear overnight.

Meanwhile, a huge chunk of highly visible real estate lost its occupancy. The former Maytag headquarters — consisting of 482,000 square feet of office buildings — are now DMACC’s responsibility. But by adaptively using what Maytag left behind, Newton has been given a chance to “reinvent its future.”

Legacy Plaza is to be the culmination of that work, and is expected to serve as the connecting piece between the DMACC Newton campus and a bulk of the city’s historic downtown district. Chambers said the projects expand on the momentum that DMACC has already begun in filling the old Maytag buildings.

“It really makes Newton a worthy destination for tourism. It makes us a worthy destination for living in a community and working in a community,” Chambers said. “It allows for people who are attracted to places like the East Village to be able to have a similar lifestyle at a lower cost of living.”

Legacy Plaza is already beginning to take shape and is home to a number of tenants, including: AeroCare, Aueron, The Cellar Peanut Pub, Ciras, Compass Mortgage, Edward Jones, Gezellig Brewing Co., Iowa Lean Consortium, Numbers and Letters Inc., Sequoia Fitness and Thombert.

Didier said the abundance of office space allows new businesses the opportunity to grow and be really impactful.

“It just creates the kinds of places people want to work and live and be.”

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

Christopher Braunschweig

Reporter with a strong penchant for community journalism.