Otto Schoitz Teen and Educational Center

The Otto Schoitz Teen and Educational Center would be located on East Fourth Street and be part of Boys and Girls Clubs of the Cedar Valley.

WATERLOO — Efforts to rejuvenate the Walnut Neighborhood took another step forward this week.

Waterloo City Council members voted unanimously Monday to approve land donations to construct more homes, clear another hurdle for a new grocery store and demolish blighted buildings for a new teen center.

“We’re getting new homes, new tax base and really putting some development into a major entryway to the city,” said Community Planning and Development Director Noel Anderson.

Mayor Quentin Hart added, “It’s good to see a continuation of investment into some of our areas that need the help and support and new vitality and life.”

There were no objections during public hearings on either of the actions council members approved, while a contingent of Walnut Neighborhood residents clapped loudly after each vote.

Council members approved a development agreement with Iowa Heartland Habitat for Humanity, which donates four vacant lots and three dilapidated houses to the nonprofit organization. Habitat is required to build new houses or rehabilitate the existing houses on each lot within 10 years.

Anderson noted the city will save maintenance costs for those lots and eventually start earning property taxes from the new construction.

A second aspect of that agreement calls for the city to pay $28,000 to Habitat to reimburse the agency for lots it acquired on the corner of Walnut and Pine streets.

Developers of a planned All In Grocers supermarket and restaurant near the CVS Pharmacy at U.S. Highway 63 and Franklin Street will be building a parking lot on those lots for Walnut Court Apartments. Walnut Court, in turn, is donating land for the store development.

In a separate action, council members opened bids for the demolition of 807 and 809-811 E. Fourth St., with the apparent low bid of $19,000 from Lehman Trucking and Excavating Inc.

The city has agreed to tear down the two buildings — one vacant since 2006 and the other underutilized — for the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Cedar Valley.

The organization, which is a key partner in the Walnut Neighborhood on the northeastern edge of downtown, is planning to build a new $3 million, 12,000-square-foot Otto Schoitz Family Teen and Educational Center on the site when the buildings are removed.

The city also is working with JSA Development on the restoration of four historic houses and has approved funding for a complete historic survey of the Walnut Neighborhood, which could lead to tax credits for future renovation projects.

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