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Former downtown auto dealership receives historic designation, will be remodeled by JSA

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WATERLOO — A former car dealership along Franklin Street will now be eligible for remodeling tax credits after notching a local historic designation.

The Waterloo Planning, Programming and Zoning Commission gave its approval for the building at 425 Franklin St., owned by JSA Development of Waterloo, to receive a local historic designation. That distinction means JSA will be in line for state historic rehabilitation tax credits, but must comply with guidelines to preserve or restore historic features during the renovation.

JSA purchased the building in 2018 and moved its Irish Fest headquarters there, planning to eventual remodel the space.

“They do plan to rehabilitate it to its original, historic character,” said City Planner John Dornoff.

The Baum-McDonald Auto Company building was constructed in 1923-24 by the Central Battery and Electric Company at the northeast corner of Franklin Street and East Park Avenue, with a one-story section fronting Franklin and a two-story section fronting East Park.

Over the decades the brick building changed hands through many auto-related dealers and companies: It was Central Battery until 1929, Fowler-Warren from 1929-1937, Baum-McDonald Auto from 1937-1952, Cedar Auto from 1953-1956 and Martineau Motors from 1956-1981.

It underwent “a significant remodel” in 1982 and was later the site of different types of businesses, according to documentation JSA provided to the city. The property is currently vacant and used for storage by JSA.

Rehabilitation, which could begin this year if the state tax credits come through, would “aid in framing Waterloo’s East side historic town square, Lincoln Park” and tell “the story of the development of downtown Waterloo, the Walnut Neighborhood and the corridor between each,” according to a letter David Deeds, JSA’s chief financial officer, sent to the city.

He stated the building would likely be demolished if the local designation and state tax credits did not go through.

That restoration will include restoring an arched parapet that ran along two sides of the building, including Franklin Avenue, said Alexa McDowell, a consultant working with JSA on the documentation.

“The intention is to restore that arched parapet, which is central to its historic character, and also to rehabilitate the storefronts,” she told the commission.

McDowell added the interior rehabilitation would be “determined based on potential tenants that present themselves.”

Commissioner Craig Holdiman said he remembers what the building used to look like.

“It’d be nice if they could return back to the way it was when it was a car dealership,” he said.

City Councilor John Chiles also spoke in support of the project.

“I’m glad to see our downtown continue to improve,” he said.

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