The city agreed to provide assistance to a developer who is investing $1.5 million into the rehabilitation of the old Lederman Bail Bonds building in downtown Newton. Council members unanimously voted in favor of providing a $75,000 forgivable loan and tax rebates not to exceed $85,000 over the next 10 years.
Located in the 100 block of North Second Avenue East, the building has been identified by the city as one of the most significant properties in the historic downtown district in great need of rehabilitation. Ex Nihilo, LLC entered into a purchase agreement for the building but asked for city assistance.
Newton is willing to help in the redevelopment project, which will still preserve the historic nature of the property. According to city documents, the building is in an urban renewal area, which allows for a mechanism for the city to participate and encourage high-level rehabilitation.
Ex Nihilo is owned by Jerry Schwaller, who is originally from Jasper County, maintains a part-time office at Northwestern Mutual in Newton along with another office in the metro. Schwaller is investing $1.5 million into the rehabilitation and agreed to a minimum assessment of $475,000.
Currently, the building is assessed at $119,870.
Newton Community Developer Director Erin Chambers said the building would have one of the highest valuations in the downtown. The property has remained unoccupied for several years, longer than Chambers has even worked for the City of Newton. Chambers has worked for the city for almost 17 years.
“It is clearly one of the largest buildings — it’s a double frontage building — in the Newton downtown that has yet to see any rehabilitation,” Chambers said. “We had a great deal of success down the square and downtown over the last few years. This is one of the last remaining ones.”
There will be no second floor housing included in the redeveloped building. The developer intends to turn the building into retail space. By improving buildings and increasing the valuations, Chambers said it relieves tax pressure citywide and makes sure properties carry their fair share.
Newton City Administrator Matt Muckler said the building has seen better days and needs a lot of improvements.
“It’s a massive development,” Muckler said, noting the developer will return to speak to council. “…This is a major, 3,000 square feet of new retail. It’s been, as Erin mentioned, one of those big projects the staff has been focused on, working to get someone to believe in that building and make it successful.”
Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext 560 or at email@example.com