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OTTUMWA — City officials got their first formal look Tuesday at early plans for new housing along the north bank of the Des Moines River.

If built, a pair of new buildings could result in about 100 new housing units representing a $20 million investment in the riverfront area. The first two phases focus on the area currently occupied by the hydro parking lot, though the third phase involves potential townhomes east of Market Street along the riverfront.

City Planner Kevin Flanagan said the city is looking for something a little different than what it often does at this stage.

It’s a request for qualifications rather than a request for proposals,” he said.

By seeking qualifications rather than proposals for the site, the hope is that the city can get an idea of what the backgrounds of different companies are. If a company has worked on similar projects before, that experience could benefit it in the city’s assessment.

Both of the first two phases envision four story buildings. The first includes approximately 4,000 square feet of restaurant space on the ground floor, with 40-50 units contained in the upper stories. Phase two will have a similar number of housing units.

Flanagan said the approaches to the development will not be identical to those used in the ongoing streetscape, but could echo it in some ways. If that approach is used, the site could give two high-visibility sites within downtown Ottumwa similar architectural languages.

The streetscape itself was the subject of another item on the agenda. The project involves installation of new water and sewer lines for the properties in the 100-300 blocks of East Main Street. Those mains are the city’s responsibility, but the connections to the buildings are the property owners’.

Public Works Director Larry Seals said it made sense to install the connections to the buildings’ water meters while the work was taking place. The property owners will be responsible for that cost, and Seals said the contractor is keeping track of time and materials used in the separate stages of the work.

Councilwoman Holly Berg praised the approach, saying it should save the city headaches in the long run.

“It makes a lot of sense to do this [now] instead of going back and tearing it up in five or 10 years,” she said.

Matt Milner can be reached at and followed on Twitter @mwmilner


Managing Editor

Matt Milner currently serves as the Courier's Managing Editor. Milner is a trained weather spotter and is usually outside if there are storms. He joined the Courier in 2002.

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