Coon Rapids awarded $100,000 Catalyst Grant
Posted on Tuesday April 16, 2019
State Awards $100,000 in Catalyst Funding to Coon Rapids for QA Lab Renovations

Gov. Kim Reynolds and Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg awarded $2.9 million in Catalyst Grant funding to 29 communities across the state including Coon Rapids. The recipients were recognized during a special ceremony Thursday, April 11 at the Rural Summit in Grinnell.

The Community Catalyst program was initiated in 2018 by the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) to help create fundamental, positive change in Iowa’s downtowns. The grants, $100,000 per community, assist with the redevelopment or rehabilitation of buildings to stimulate economic growth and reinvestment.

Coon Rapids plans to use its Catalyst funding to transform the former Syngenta Quality Assurance Lab downtown. Hartung Brothers gifted this four-building complex to the City of Coon Rapids on January 1, 2015.  A few days later, a fire sprinkler main froze and burst in the building, but because it was not occupied, the water was not discovered until the city’s entire water tower had drained into the building.  Over 300,000 gallons filled the building.  Water damage was extensive, and the building has sat vacant despite extensive marketing efforts by city leaders. 

With this catalyst grant, city officials will focus on renovating the largest of the four buildings in the complex -- the far west building at 412 Main Street. They will create four second-story apartments in what used to be the production offices. Those apartments will be used for nightly, weekly, monthly or extended-stay rentals.  On the street level, they will white box the space. POET Biorefinery will lease this remodeled area for training and meeting space on a one-year contract. Anyone interested in using some of the space for retail, office or other business purposes on a more long-term basis can contact Coon Rapids Community Coordinator Katie Mason at 712-999-4769.

“The Community Catalyst application process is extremely competitive, and we feel extremely proud and fortunate to have been selected for this grant award,” said Mason who applied for the grant on behalf of the city. “The city council is truly committed to downtown revitalization, and their investment in the QA lab is the first step. This grant is the catalyst we need to begin major downtown revitalization efforts.”

For their part, the city council pledged $100,000 in TIF revenues toward the renovation. Coon Rapids Municipal Utilities Trustees pledged $20,000, Coon Rapids Development Group $5,000 and Coon Rapids Rotary $500 in support. The Lions Club, Coon Rapids Fire Department and Whiterock Conservancy have agreed to help with demolition efforts.

Mason, City Clerk Jes Leighty and Council Members Janelle Kracht and Josh Carpenter are forming a committee to oversee the project, which includes hiring an architect who can ensure the project meets all of the Smart Principals and Green Sustainability principles required by the Catalyst Grant.  Anyone interested in joining that committee to help develop the plans for the building should contact Mason.

Last spring, city leaders invested in the far east buildings of the QA Lab when they renovated the two existing apartments, the first-floor public restrooms and the community coordinator’s office. Just last month, AmeriCorp volunteers made repairs and painted two other store-front rooms in the building. The large lab spaces in the middle two building have yet to be renovated. City leaders hope that after renovations to the west building are complete, they can turn their attention to the remaining two spaces or perhaps a private business will invest in those buildings. Anyone interested in any of the retail spaces can contact Mason for further information.

Of the 29 communities awarded during the 2019 application round, 16 have populations of fewer than 1,500. Program rules require at least 40 percent of funds be awarded to cities with fewer than 1,500 people. The Catalyst Grants are awarded annually based on funding availability. IEDA awarded $1.8 million in grants to 18 cities in 2018. Emergency Catalyst grants have also been awarded to the communities of Anamosa, Vinton and Marshalltown since the program’s inception.

“The Community Catalyst program not only revitalizes main streets, but encourages further development and future growth for years to come,” said Gov. Reynolds. “Empowering and investing in every Iowa community is critical for bringing success to all corners of the state.”

“Each catalyst project is unique, inspiring different types of growth and development depending on the communities where they’re located,” said Lt. Gov. Gregg. “We appreciate the engagement of local leadership and the combination of public and private investment it takes to make the catalyst projects a reality.”

Catalyst Grant Awarded

Governor Reynolds (left) and Lieutenant Gov. Gregg (right) presented Coon Rapids representatives - City Councilwoman Janelle Kracht, City Clerk Jes Leighty and Community Coordinator Katie Mason - with a $100,000 Community Catalyst Building Remediation Grant at the Rural Iowa Development Summit Thursday, April 17. The Coon Rapids community will use the funds to renovate the former Quality Assurance Lab building on Main Street.

City of Coon Rapids
City of Coon Rapids
123 3rd Avenue South, Coon Rapids, IA 50058
Phone: 712-999-7749
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