OTTUMWA — Redevelopment of Agassiz Elementary into new apartments could see an additional 36 housing units created. Developer Jim Danaher said Tuesday the site is unique and will be preserved as much as possible.

“We like this building a lot. We’ve started the process of getting this building recognized as a historic structure,” he said. “It’s a lengthy process, subject to the approval of the state. We think it will get their approval.”

Part of the attraction of Agassiz for Danaher was the unique architecture. The building is not the stereotypical brick box, but has some relief carvings at entrances and other architectural features that aren’t present in most schools of its age.

Right now, plans call for one studio apartment, 16 one-bedroom apartments, 11 two-bedroom apartments, and eight three-bedroom apartments. While that can change, Danaher said the plans attempt to preserve the classroom layout as closely as possible.

Part of the research that preceded the proposal found an estimated 1,700 people commute more than 30 minutes to jobs in Ottumwa. “Those,” Danaher said, “are potential customers.”

“When do you expect, best case scenario, construction could get started?” Councilman Marc Roe asked.

Danaher replied that it’s a difficult question. Financing determines everything, and it won’t be clear whether the project receives each of the grants it is seeking for some time. “It is a lengthy process and it’s not a guarantee,” he said.

Once funding is in place, though, Danaher said the renovations will take approximately two years. Rents are likewise undetermined, but current estimates range from $500 to $750 per month.

Among the first steps was the request that the city change the zoning for the site. The zoning as of Monday allowed up to two-family structures. With 36 potential apartments, the zoning needed to change to multi-family housing.

Council members unanimously approved the request.

The city also got some hard numbers from Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Andy Wartenburg on the Canteen eating contest last month. The event drew an estimated 2,600 people, including more than 400 who were classified as non-local. Vendors and food sales both made several thousand dollars.

The event also had a notable effect for local hotels, which saw approximately $7,700 in revenue from people who traveled for the contest.


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.