Picture it: Community leaders and neighbors gather at Phenix Elementary in West Des Moines to hail the public-private partnership that saved a historic school. A community takes pride in the fact that one of its landmark buildings is protected for another generation, and hundreds of area residents pack the building for a first look inside. Some of those gathered to see inside are looking at their new homes for the first time.
This isn’t an abstract dream. At Community Housing Initiatives, we know projects like Phenix Elementary can succeed because we just opened one to great acclaim in Clinton, Iowa, three months ago.
Built in 1888 as a striking example of the community’s willingness to invest in education, the Roosevelt building served as Clinton’s first high school, then an elementary and later school district headquarters. When those offices relocated, though, the building’s future was uncertain. Capital needs had piled up, and the list of ideas for re-purposing the property turned up few viable options. Still, the community was not willing to let go of a building it loved.
In response to an application from CHI and local partners, along with the city of Clinton, the Iowa Economic Development Authority awarded $3 million in Community Development Block Grant funds to Roosevelt School in January 2015, the same day Phenix School was awarded the same amount of funds from the same source.
Available for leasing In November, 2016, Roosevelt School is now half leased, and continues to draw strong interest from the community.
Here’s what folks in Clinton have had to say about our work:
Jessica Kinser, City Administrator, Clinton, IA on Clinton’s downtown progress over the last decade: “Community Housing Initiatives, it was their vision that started all this. They truly have been a partner with the city. We wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for Community Housing Initiatives.” (6/8/2015, Quad City Times)
Quad City Times Editorial Board, Davenport, IA: “Readers…know we go ga-ga for collaboration in our government laden community. When a nonprofit takes over the heavy lifting of government, we offer a standing ovation.” (6/12/2015)
Julie Allesee, First Ward Councilperson, Clinton, IA: “I think that CHI has become the catalyst and the start of people thinking about the downtown environment, and I think that came about because of the quality of work CHI has done, the way they run the buildings, and the way they take care of them.”
Deborah Olson, Superintendent of Schools, Clinton, IA: “The building has undergone a remarkable transformation. It’s a beautiful building, but the school district didn’t have the money to restore it. Now, with CHI coming in, it’s undergone something I never thought I would see, and it will be a showcase for the whole community,” she said.
And we deliver the same quality in West Des Moines
Already, CHI has completed about $20 million in quality rental development in West Des Moines at Crestview Terrace and Valley Station.
Debi Durham, Director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority: "I specifically want to also acknowledge the developer of the Valley Station project, Community Housing Initiatives. IEDA has awarded this developer additional projects … in multifamily round six around the state because CHI delivers the goods, do they not?" (At the opening of Valley Station Apartments, shown above, in April 2014)
Des Moines Register Editorial Board, Des Moines, IA: “The city of West Des Moines hopes to buy [Phenix Elementary] and convert it to live-work spaces for artists… This would be an ideal new life for an important piece of the city’s history. The plan hinges on the city receiving a $3 million federal grant, but it seems like a winning proposal. If the grant doesn’t come through, we hope the city will continue to look for other sources.” (8/22/2014)