WATERLOO — A long-planned apartment and commercial building is underway in the heart of downtown Waterloo’s revitalization effort.

Planners expect potential tenants will be attracted by the Art Block’s proximity to the Cedar River, RiverLoop Amphitheatre, Waterloo Center for the Arts, SingleSpeed Brewing Co., Cedar Valley SportsPlex, Young Arena, Waterloo Public Library and other downtown attractions.

Otherwise, there’s always the view.

“The amphitheater area is beautiful, one of my favorite areas of downtown,” said developer Brent Dahlstrom. “All of the units will have a balcony, and every single unit has a view of the river.”

Contractors are working on the foundation for the seven-story Art Block being built in a former parking lot next to the Phelps Youth Pavilion and elevated walkway at the RiverLoop Amphitheatre. Construction should go vertical in November.

The lowest level of the building, at the current Cedar Street level, will have a lobby and parking for tenants, while the second floor will be level with the top of the amphitheater and include office and retail space.

“We’re looking for a restaurant concept that spills out onto the plaza,” Dahlstrom said.

The five upper floors will include 70 market rate rental units, which are expected to be ready in approximately 18 months.

It’s been a long time coming for the project originally conceived in 2000 by downtown planning consultant Vandewalle and Associates.

The RiverLoop Amphitheatre was designed and constructed leaving a space for the building.

But a firm initially on board in 2002 backed out when a state Vision Iowa grant for downtown projects was delayed.

Sherman Associates Inc. of Minneapolis was tapped in 2013 to build a 58-unit multi-story apartment building to be called the Bank and River Landing. But that effort was scuttled when the developer failed to get a $3 million federal block grant.

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Dahlstrom, who had spearheaded the award-winning Grand Crossing development on U.S. Highway 63 and Jefferson Street along with other downtown housing projects, then stepped forward to take on the development.

“It’s probably the most exciting project that our group has done to date,” he said.

Dahlstrom credited the city’s investment in downtown and SingleSpeed owner Dave Morgan with making the Art Block viable.

“I think that what Dave Morgan has done with that brewery and all the awards it received has brought so many people downtown,” he said. “There are people that haven’t been downtown for a very long time, or maybe haven’t been there at all, that are coming down to the brewery.”

Dan Watters, president of the Waterloo Development Corp., sees the Art Block project as “a catalyst for other people to do other things downtown.”

The WDC is a nonprofit entity working with the city and developers on the downtown renaissance effort and sees the private investment as the fruits of the public projects undertaken so far.

“It’s a strong indicator that the city and downtown is moving forward,” Watters said. “It is generating interest from young people.

“The appetite for housing in the downtown areas is immense and continues to grow,” he added. “That will bring retail and other investment.”

The Waterloo City Council voted unanimously in December 2016 to provide the construction site and tax rebates to assist the Art Block development, which is expected to maintain an assessed value in excess of $4.5 million.

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