Charles City Developers Win Big State Grant

CHARLES CITY, IA – Three north Iowa brothers have received a nearly three million dollar grant from the Iowa Economic Development Authority to help revive the city’s downtown.

Steven, Charles, and Peter Thomson were the siblings that got the grant which in total is $2.94 million. According to the press release, which you can read below, they plan on constructing a 50,000 square foot building that will house retail shops and apartments.

Ground breaking is slated to happened this October and the project will be completed by spring of 2015.


Full Press Release:

Charles City Developers Win State Grant of $2.94 Million

Money Will Help Build “McQuillen Place,” Reviving City’s Main Street

CHARLES CITY, Iowa, July 12, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The small city of Charles City, Iowa is another step closer to a local renaissance, as three brothers from the city have won a $2.94 million grant from the Iowa Economic Development Authority to help revive the city’s downtown.

The grant, channeled to the IEDA from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, will support the planned establishment of a 50,000-square-foot building of retail shops and apartments in the center of the city’s downtown. The approximately $13 million building at the corner of Clark and Main streets will be the largest new retail Main Street structure built in the city in 115 years.

Construction is expected to begin before October 2013 and to be completed by the spring of 2015.

The development, to be called “McQuillen Place,” is the project of three brothers named Thomson, with deep roots in the city. It will be built on nine lots, and will boast airy, light space for living and shopping, while maintaining the storied character of the modest 7,600-resident city.

McQuillen Place will include 33 apartment units on the second and third stories of the building, indoor parking, and five to eight retail stores the length of its frontage on Main Street, according to its developers. A sky-lit pedestrian retail arcade will replace a pocket park at the south edge of the development.  The development team says the architectural style and exterior detailing of the building will be “emphatically Victorian” like many of the surrounding commercial structures.

Charles M. Thomson and Peter W. Thomson, both Charles City natives, are leading the project. The brothers jointly operate Amelia Management, a real estate development company based in the city. Their brother, Steven, is also a partner. Cornice & Rose International, LLC of Barrington, Illinois is also a partner in the project and will be providing development and construction management services.

The Thomsons say the state grant will help along an existing surge of interest in Charles City downtown retail space. “When you look at all the growth that the area has had both in terms of jobs and The Avenue of the Saints (the long expressway between St. Paul, Minnesota and St. Louis, Missouri), it’s clear that Charles City and northern Iowa are poised for great years ahead,” Charles Thomson said. “We want to be part of that growth by investing in Charles City by establishing this beautiful project.  The state and federal governments are doing their part to help make this dream a reality.”

The concept, according to Thomson, is to build a structure that feeds into the momentum that is expanding Charles City’s industrial base and emerging role as a regional destination for shoppers. “Our perception is that so many people are either driving to Charles City to work or to shop that there is going to be even more demand for quality retail space,” he said. “People are starting to come to Charles City for things they can’t get as easily anywhere else in this part of the country.”

Peter Thomson added that the project is going to revitalize a once-busy business district. “The 1968 Charles City tornado destroyed much of our Main Street,” he said. “When added to the growth of existing businesses, McQuillen Place will help to revive Charles City’s Main Street and make it as central and significant as it was to the region before 1968.”

Peter Thomson described strong interest among retailers, adding, “Local business leaders see what McQuillen Place can do for Charles City in terms of traffic. We’ve also had interest from regional and national retailers who want to be part of developments that aren’t just another strip center on a large concrete parking lot. They see the character and quality that McQuillen Place will bring to the community.”

The architectural design of McQuillen Place is consistent with the gracious turn-of-the-century buildings that once stood on the site, Charles Thomson said. “McQuillen Place will weave perfectly into the architecture of Charles City’s historic business district. Even though it will appear to be an historic building, it will feature the most modern and efficient building systems available.” James Gray from Cornice & Rose, who has had extensive development experience both domestically and internationally added, “The development will utilize new urbanism concepts and will make Charles City’s unique Main Street even more pedestrian friendly. McQuillen Place will be built in a way that will allow the building to endure for 200-300 years. We are grateful to be working with the Thomsons to create this wonderful legacy property.”

The new building’s name is a nod to Charles W. McQuillen, a physician who came to Charles City in 1914. He was the Thomson brothers’ maternal grandfather, and was one of the many Thomsons and McQuillens who have run retail businesses and professional services in Charles City continuously since 1949. These storied businesses include: Charles McQuillen, M.D., a medical practice; Ben Franklin Store, a discount variety store; Janan’s For Young Ages children’s clothing; Allen Travel Agency; Subway sandwich shop; and The Thread Shed.

The Thomsons mentioned welcome competition from other developers; in recent months, two other development groups have announced plans to redevelop six existing retail buildings in an adjoining block of Charles City’s main commercial thoroughfare.

To finance construction, the Thomsons, in addition to amassing their own capital and the new grant, have requested additional tax increment financing from the local TIF district.

McQuillen Place, when completed, will be the largest new retail structure on Charles City’s Main Street since the 1897 completion of the Hildreth Hotel, which burned down in 1931. A shopping mall (since demolished) had been erected two blocks east of Main Street after the 1968 Charles City tornado.

Part of the new development will occupy the site of the Union House, an historic hotel and restaurant that was used as a town center and gathering place, until it was consumed by fire in 1987.

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