Jack Hatch, developer of Hotel Maytag, acknowledged the visiting U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst sitting to his left alongside Newton Mayor Mike Hansen, and Iowa House Rep. Jon Dunwell to his right. They represent the “three layers of government,” he said, who worked together to restore Hotel Maytag to its former glory.
Ernst was welcomed by Hatch, elected officials and city stakeholders on April 20 at the renovated Hotel Maytag Apartments, which was officially unveiled to the public in June 2019. Led by Hatch Development Group, LLC, the former hotel and its 110-room facility was converted into 45 apartments.
According to the Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition, 36 of the 45 apartments are affordable to residents earning at or blow 60 percent of area median income. Low-Income Housing Tax Credits and Historic Tax Credits were used to finance the renovation of the property.
Before construction even began, Hatch noted it was a challenge to convince people of the inclusion of affordable housing and get past the stigma. The city initially offered $400,000 to invest in the project. Eventually, the City of Newton would invest more than $3 million in local funds to the Hotel Maytag restoration.
“Because they knew how important this building was to the downtown … So we collaborated with a variety of people, and, in the end, we were able to put this together,” Hatch said. “And it couldn’t have happened without you (Ernst), your program’s support.”
The senator continues her affordable housing efforts today. Ernst and fellow U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley announced April 7 they are working to protect affordable housing resources intended for families in Iowa from being redirected to major cities from voucher portability in the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program.
The restoration of Hotel Maytag also includes revamped commercial space. Ernst was shown around the wine bar now known as Nostalgia Wine & Spirits and the Capitol II Theatre. She was even introduced to the movie theater’s four-legged mascot, Joy the mini-pig.
Collaboration helped restore Hotel Maytag, and it is collaborations that help keep it together. Hansen said the city reluctantly acquired the building as it fell in disrepair. Officials recognized it as “such an important footprint” in the town square. Allowing it to continue deteriorating was not an option.
“It was our intent to find a developer and contractor that could restore this,” Hansen said. “We had been working on avenues on which to secure funding … We were lucky enough to acquire Jack and his company to take a look at this. Long story short: We have a beautiful restoration of this facility.”
Dunwell said preserving quality of life in rural towns requires investments. It is a key, integral part, he said. Not only is a project like Hotel Maytag Apartments helping affordable housing needs, Dunwell suggested it champions individual community growth.
“If we don’t find a way to grow a little bit faster, we’re going to have huge issues,” Dunwell said. “We lower taxes about 2.9 percent and work on recreation in our rural agricultural areas, and we have to find ways to invest in each kind of housing and business opportunities just so we can generate growth.”
Restoring Hotel Maytag has larger implications, too, Ernst suggested. In order for rural communities to grow and support jobs, they need a fresh supply of housing stock. The need for housing in rural communities in particular is “almost at a crisis point,” Ernst said.
“Many of our rural communities they want to attract workers, but you can’t attract workers and expand businesses if you don’t have somewhere for them to live,” Ernst said. “Some of our communities have aging housing stock … This (housing credits) is one of those tools in the toolbox.”
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