WAVERLY — Waverly residents are going to have more options for living it up in downtown.
Renovations to several historic downtown buildings have made way for 18 new loft-style apartments. Most are only a couple of finishing touches away from being put on the market for tenants. It took more than two years and nearly $4 million to complete the work. Overruns on time and costs were expected due to the nature of the project, said Ann Seggerman, who owns 118 E. Bremer Ave., home to the Waverly Chamber of Commerce on the ground floor. The building formerly housed a Masonic Temple meeting room that is now upper floor loft space.
Initially, the chamber applied for a $2.5 million grant through the Iowa Economic Development Authority to help renovate 26 downtown apartment spaces. Bids for the projects were more than $2 million above estimates. Eight of the planned apartments were ultimately cut from the project and the IEDA eventually pledged $3 million to the project. That doesn’t mean there weren’t other surprises during renovations spread across six historic downtown buildings.
“They’re old, old buildings,” Seggerman said. “At least once a month something would come up or an architect would say, ‘We need a support beam here,’ or something like that.”
The building owners came together and formed the Waverly Downtown Development LLC to coordinate the projects. Seggerman’s spaces include two upstairs spaces, a basement apartment at 118 E. Bremer Ave. and another basement space at 104 E. Bremer Ave.
“This used to look like a dungeon,” Seggerman said standing in the near-complete apartment at 104 E. Bremer. Now the space is a comfortable apartment complete with natural light from street-level windows.
Paula Stevenson, a member of the LLC, is a downtown property owner who initially had six apartments in the renovation plans. She bowed out of the project after the increased cost was discovered but stayed on board the LLC to help coordinate the projects.
The project could only shed eight apartments and still qualify for grant funding. One building owner with two units bowed out. Stevenson’s project planned for six.
“It was the logical thing to do,” Stevenson said, adding she and the community will still benefit.
“I’m still a property owner downtown,” she said. “So it’s still an advantage to me to have people living here.”
The project comes as downtown Waverly is seeing an upswing. A new hotel on Bremer Avenue opened last year, and other businesses have followed.
“We’ve seen a growth in interest in businesses wanting to be located in downtown,” said Travis Toliver, executive director of the Waverly Chamber of Commerce.
The 18 new apartments might be the start of a trend, owners said.
“There’s still a lot of space down here,” Seggerman said.
The grants also comes with the condition that more than half of the apartments will go to low- or moderate-income renters for 10 years.
A city-funded study found low- to moderate-income rental housing demand outpaces supply in Waverly.
Each space is different, and where possible unique features of each historic space are emphasized. At 118 E. Bremer Ave., the Masonic Temple windows facing the main street are original. In the basement, a stone wall gives the apartment a distinct look. At 112 and 114 E. Bremer, the windows facing Bremer Avenue have arches. The front apartment of three at 98 E. Bremer Ave. features a corner window atop the historic bank building.
For Brian Snyder, owner of 106 W. Bremer Ave., the project was an opportunity to tap more of the potential of his historic building. The sole project on the west side of the Cedar River, Snyder’s building will have seven apartments on the second floor.
“I had dreamed of apartments, but I knew I couldn’t afford it,” he said.
The grant gave Snyder and the other building owners the catalyst they needed.
“This wouldn’t be feasible without the grants,” Seggerman said.
Most of the new apartments will be ready for residents sometime in April.