Ready for a revival

Several downtown Traer buildings set for significant updates

A string of downtown Traer buildings set to undergo extensive rehabilitation and expansion work pictured on Jan. 10. Buildings slated for a revival include, from left to right, the former MEMBERS1st bank building, the upper story of La Terraza Too, the Wind Up Lounge, and Creations by Christy. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER

A set of Second Street buildings located east of US 63 in downtown Traer will soon undergo a much anticipated revival.

During the January 9 Traer City Council meeting, Daron Jacobs, owner of the Wind Up Lounge located at 606 Second St. told the council he was in the final stages of purchasing the two properties just east of his bar – Mark and Christy Bradley’s building that currently houses Creations by Christy hair salon and the empty lot directly adjacent – for use as a future outdoor beer garden and music venue.

The Bradley building will be taken down, Jacobs explained, providing two empty lots for the venue space which will include a building housing restrooms built between the Wind Up Lounge and the Hesperia Lodge. The venue will also have a bar and a stage that faces south toward Second St.

Access to the music venue will only be possible from inside the Wind Up Lounge through a side door.

As part of his comments, Jacobs asked for the council’s blessing to incorporate live music at the venue on Thursday nights until 10 p.m. and on Saturday nights until midnight. Additional nights of music may also be added during the annual Winding Stairs Festival.

The empty lot located due east of Creations by Christy on Second Street in downtown Traer that will soon house part of the Wind Up Lounge’s new outdoor beer garden and music venue. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER

“I’m not actually sure what the noise ordinance is now,” Jacobs said. “I don’t really have any neighbors except for the apartment building across the alley … The stage is going to be made so there’s a back on it … You know, it’s live music, there’s some noise involved.”

Tama County Economic Development executive director Katherine Ollendieck, also in attendance at the meeting, spoke on Jacobs’ behalf as well, explaining he was in the process of bringing other Traer business owners on board with his plans.

“He’s starting to push toward ‘let’s get Thursday nights open in downtown Traer,'” Ollendieck said.

“I’ve already got La Terraza and Pizza Palace [onboard] – [people] will be able to order … [and have it] delivered right to the beer garden, right to your table,” Jacobs said.

“There [are] a lot of other towns that have that type of thing on a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, whatever [night],” council member Jamie Erhardt said in response to Jacobs’ plans. “I think it’s great. If it brings people to town, I think that’s awesome.”

Creations by Christy hair salon pictured on Jan. 10 in downtown Traer. The building is slated to be taken down as part of Wind Up Lounge owner Daron Jacobs’ plans to build an outdoor beer garden and music venue in the space. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER

“I’m trying to make Traer a place where [people] come for entertainment, food, and shopping. On Thursdays especially. And then hopefully the rest of the week,” Jacobs responded.

If all goes to plan, the Wind Up Lounge expansion project should be completed in time for this year’s Winding Stairs Festival in August.

“It seems like everybody is pretty much in agreement on it,” Mayor Holden said, indicating the council’s blessing.

As part of Jacobs’ project, he has applied for a grant under phase two of Tama County Economic Development’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grant program which has earmarked $550,000 toward local businesses – $74,000 of which is slated to be invested in Traer.

La Terraza Too to purchase MEMBERS1st

In addition to Jacobs’ application, Ollendieck told the council the owners of La Terraza Too – located on the west side of the Wind Up Lounge – are also preparing a grant application as part of their plans to purchase and expand into the MEMBERS1ST Community Credit Union building located on the corner at the intersection of Second Street and US 63.

Beyond the ARPA funds, Ollendieck said she was working with La Terraza’s team on a second grant application — the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) Community Catalyst Building Remediation Program grant — in order to rehabilitate the upper story housing of both the former bank building (one apartment) and La Terraza’s current building (two apartments).

Plans for the apartments include connecting all three with a common entrance and adding a back stairway to function as a secondary exit.

“This requires the city be the applicant for this,” Ollendieck explained to the council of the Catalyst grant. “An agreement between you [the city] and [La Terraza]. You’re the recipient of the funds but [La Terraza] is the sub-recipient of the funds.”

Ollendieck asked the city to provide a letter stating they agree to be the applicant for the grant of up to $100,000.

The city would also be required to provide financial or in-kind resources such as hauling away the project debris.

A motion was made and passed unanimously by the council to serve as the applicant for the IEDA grant.

“We’re going to get something really amazing done on that corner,” Ollendieck said. “And then we just keep rolling. We just pick the next set of buildings – where are we going to next?”

Other Jan. 9 council business

-Council member Jon Panfil shared that the city’s recycling collection site has been receiving items that cannot be recycled as well as large boxes that have not been flattened properly. Panfil also asked city clerk Haley Blaine to send a letter to a specific downtown business (not named) that has been placing cardboard boxes in the recycling containers “not cut up and full of [non-recyclable] packing material.”

-As part of her report, Blaine shared that the city had still not yet received a plan from Heartland Co-op detailing how the company plans to remediate the former Traer Manufacturing building — damaged in the 2011 derecho — on the south side of town. The company previously indicated such a plan would be submitted to the city by mid-December of 2022. Heartland currently has a $750 nuisance fine with the city it has not paid.

This story has been updated to indicate the MEMBERS1st building is still currently owned by the bank although the branch has moved its Traer operations to a different building on Second Street.