New life for the empty Osada building has begun to take shape.
Fred Timko, president of Point Builders Inc. of Cedar Rapids, reports that his company has begun the renovation of the Osada building from its former self, 67 units of low-income loft apartments, to its new self, 58 condominium units.
The first four condo units — units will be priced generally between $100,000 and $200,000 — should be ready for display in August, Timko reports.
Timko is calling the new condos, Bottleworks. The five-story, warehouse-style building, at 905 Third St. SE, once was just that, a Hires Root Beer bottleworks, he says.
The progress on the Osada transformation came to mind this week when Tom Aller and Jim Ernst made appearances at the City Council meeting.
Aller is president if Alliant Energy’s subsidiary Interstate Power and Light Co.; Ernst, president/CEO of the family services agency, Four Oaks.
Both were big players in seeing to it that something came of the failed Osada project.
Osada was created a decade ago in a complicated, creative financing arrangement that included upfront money from Alliant Investments Inc. in exchange for the federal government awarding Alliant tax credits against some of the company’s federal tax load.
Alliant, thus, was a limited, behind-the-scenes partner in the Osada project with the MidAmerica Housing Partnership. And then MAHP failed last fall.
Four Oaks stepped in to operate the assortment of MAHP properties, and it since has created the Affordable Housing Network to assume control of the former MAHP units.
But as Ernst told the City Council again this week, the Osada project was simply too big and too financially troubled to continue in its role as a low-income housing.
In the financial agreements between the Iowa Finance Authority, Alliant and Timko in closing the books on Osada, a Timko-led entity called BPI-GRR LLC, has paid about $3.1 million for the Osada building, money that the Authority and Alliant have taken to try to cover what they had invested the property. Neither the Authority nor Alliant was expected to be made whole on their investments.
From the $3.1 million, Aller presented a check of $175,000 to Ernst and the Affordable Housing Network as part of that financial settlement closing out the former life of the Osada venture.
Ernst, in turn, handed the check to the city of Cedar Rapids to cover liens the city held against another former MAHP property, the 15-unit Brown Apartments, 1234 Fourth Ave. SE. The check to the city, Ernst explained in front of the City Council, clears the way for a new, $2-million tax-credit investment that will allow for the renovation of the Brown Apartments for affordable housing.
In front of the council, Aller thanked Ernst and Four Oaks for its role in stepping in to rescue most of the MAHP properties and to help figure out a new life for the Osada building.
“Cedar Rapids is a better place because of what Jim Ernst and Four Oaks have done,” Aller said.
Ernst said every resident of the former Osada project who has chosen so has been placed in a new living situation here, and all of those people have spoken positively of the move, he said.
Ernst told the council that the city is in great need of more affordable housing units, particularly three- and four-bedroom apartments.
Council member Kris Gulick asked Ernst about affordable-housing demand, and Ernst said there were over 1,000 families that could benefit from additional affordable housing in the community.
As a side note, Point Builders’ Timko says he thinks the city’s proposal to build its new Intermodal Transit Facility across Third Street SE from Bottleworks will enhance the Bottleworks property and be an asset for those who come to live there. The Intermodal will be a scaled-back version of a former design, which incorporated a 500-vehicle parking ramp into the design.
Timko also is one of the people on a new committee to try to hash out differing ideas on the design of the Third Street SE renovation project, which the City Council has given the go-ahead on. The New Bohemia group has wanted a more modern design, while some property owners have insisted on a Czech theme similar to Czech Village across the river. Timko isn’t from either camp.