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WATERLOO — Two historic renovation projects by AHTS Architects of Waterloo were honored by Preservation Iowa at the “2016 Preservation at Its Best Awards.”

The awards were presented Thursday at the Preserve Iowa Conference in Davenport.

JSA Development’s “Walden Block” won in the Small Commercial category. It involved four of the oldest buildings in downtown Waterloo, some built in the 1880s. At the project’s start in 2012, the buildings were vacant and a potentially dangerous eyesore.

“The buildings would have been knocked down if we did not do this. … (now) they’re good for another 150 years,” said Jim Walsh, JSA Development president.

A primary goal was to uncover and retain original design elements, such as tin ceilings and a glass block wall, while modernizing the space. The result was a block of six upper-level updated apartments and four main level commercial areas, including Basal Pizza.

“The entire project speaks to the power of partnerships: a private developer with vision and willingness to take a risk, architects who appreciate the beauty of past era design elements, the state’s financial resources offering historic tax credits and the hard work of contractors,” said Mardy Holst, AHTS architect.

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The city of Cedar Falls and Cedar Falls Development Group’s “Old Cedar Falls Post Office” won in the Adaptive Reuse category. The Cedar Falls Post Office was built in 1918. But in 1961 when the U.S. Postal Service moved to a new location, the building went through many adaptions that compromised its style.

In 2012 the city decided to demolish it, but the Cedar Falls Development Group convinced them to partner in an effort to salvage the building. As renovation to restore its original features neared completion (revealing marble wall panels, a glass and wood vestibule and a rich wood floor), Bike Tech was identified as the new tenant.

To prepare for Bike Tech’s relocation in May 2015, features such as a floating high-abuse flooring system and well-placed signage were added to accommodate the needs of the business while preserving historic features and providing versatility for any future uses.

In March the former post office was listed individually on the National Register of Historic Places marking a successful end to a project four years in the making.

“What I love about this project is it is a preservation success story where the threat of the building’s demolition spurred local citizens to polish an architectural gem and keep a part of the historic downtown Cedar Falls from becoming another parking lot,” said ATHS architect Andrew Bell.

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