WATERLOO, Iowa --- The Wonder Bread bakery in Waterloo sits idle now, but the city of Waterloo sees it as a potentially productive piece of property in the future.
"We have talked about it," Community Planning and Development Director Noel Anderson said about the city's interest in the bakery building at 325 Commercial St., which was built in 1925. "Based on its location, we have talked about it for a number of years."
The building itself may not be of much interest, but its location fits nicely with ongoing downtown redevelopment projects, Anderson said.
He said a new use would meld smoothly with the neighboring RiverLoop Amphitheatre, the public library and the Waterloo Center for the Arts.
"Obviously, we'd like to have that site itself used as something more compatible with the foot traffic that we anticipate in the upper and lower plaza area," Anderson said.
Cedar Street, which meanders behind the library and separates the amphitheater plaza areas and loops around the bakery loading docks across from the arts center, could be closed to unify the properties, Anderson said.
"Cedar Street is not needed as a street; it's more an ingress/egress portion of the parking lots around the library," he said. "One way would be to vacate those streets and adopt it as one campus."
A suggestion has been made to turn the bakery building into an enclosed parking garage, Anderson said.
"We just haven't gotten into any details of how feasible that would be as a parking area or a new building," he said.
All of those plans remain in the dream stage at the moment, since the city doesn't own the property, Anderson said.
"I think the best answer is I don't know yet," he said.
That decision would be several jumps away, he said.
The first step would involve negotiating a way to purchase the property, Anderson said.
"We've internally been trying to discuss what is the best way to approach this," he said. "Is it to contact the company or pay attention to what their next steps may be? What potential buyers may be out there?"
Those questions may take some time to answer. It was only last week that Irving, Texas-based Hostess Brands Inc., which baked Wonder Bread in downtown Waterloo, announced that the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York had approved its motion for the orderly wind down of its business and sale of its assets, including its 33 bakeries.
The likelihood of another bakery opening up at the downtown site is slim, Anderson said.
"We'd like to redevelop that site, but if somebody wants to open a new bakery, perhaps we can offer them incentives to open someplace else," he said, adding that there is land adjacent to Hostess' Waterloo distribution center.
"There's six acres there. We've been kind of holding that open as a possibility for that kind of use," Anderson said.
Ed Wilson, a 26-year employee at Hostess' Commercial Street plant, said he doubted the downtown building would be used as a bakery again.
"I don't know. It's just a big gamble," he said when asked last week what he thought about the possibility that the old bakery would reopen. "It is an old plant. It is smaller."
Food bank gets donation
The Northeast Iowa Food Bank in Waterloo has received at least two shipments of bread and other bakery products from the closed bakery and Wonder Bread outlet store, said Barb Prather, the food bank's executive director.
"When places like this go out of business, they often call us. This isn't anything new we haven't handled in the past," Prather said.
On Monday morning, the food bank got a delivery of about 1,000 loaves of bread from the bakery, Prather said.
"Part of our mission is to recoup food that would otherwise go to waste," she said.