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Toledo Council, Hobart continue to negotiate on IJH campus future

“Deal Breakers,” Timeline Told

January 31, 2018
By John Speer - Editor ( , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

"I'm back here in front of the council to decide what we're going to do with the Iowa Juvenile Home - we need the city to be a participant in all of the projects to be done," Jim Hobart, co-owner with his wife BJ, of Hobart Historic Restoration, Cedar Rapids, told Toledo City Council members Monday night, Jan. 22.

The Juvenile Home / State Training School for Girls was closed three years ago and the property has sat idle since. It is believed the State of Iowa is willing to dispose of the property for a purpose which is acceptable both at the state and local levels.

During a more than hour-long discussion, Mayor John Lloyd, council members Darvin Graham, Joe Boll, Duane Pansegrau and Brian Sokol and City Attorney Mike Marquess all sought a timeline and additional details on the Hobart Historic Restoration plans for the 27-acre campus in Toledo. Marquess said the council also wants a development agreement.

Article Photos

This four-acre parcel of ground located to the southeast of the former Iowa Juvenile Home / State Training School for Girls (in background) is owned by the City of Toledo and wanted as part of the package deal Hobart Historic Restoration has put together for reuse of the campus. The land and adjacent property, now with homes was formerly part of the IJH operation and included a dairy barn.
Chronicle/John Speer

Discussion Monday night and previously seems to indicate members are in support of the Hobart proposal. However, obstacles also appear to exist.

"We're wiling to work toward this goal," Mayor Lloyd said at the beginning of the discussion.

"(This) is important to our community. We need to take responsibility upon us," Council member Graham said.

Referring to the state-ordered IJH closure, Graham said, "I'm furious how this happenedbut we can't afford to have this sit vacant, empty and be bulldozed down"

In answer to council questions on a timeline for the work, "Six months is a safe estimate to "swing hammers," Hobart said. His company first proposed reuse of the property a year ago and presented a formal proposal in November.

Hobart said he would direct his attorney, Matthew Hektoen, to prepare and submit a basic development plan.

City officials had met in special session the previous Wednesday also in an effort to determine the city's role in the proposed project which entails creating senior housing, a memory care center, apartments and new single-family housing.


What happens next may well hinge on a meeting on Tuesday Jan. 30, after the deadline for this issue of The Chronicle.

As reported on Jan. 24, the Region 6 Housing Trust Fund Board is slated to take up the issue of being the pass-through agency for the IJH property from the State of Iowa to Hobart.

Tama County Economic Development Director Heath Kellogg, a Trust Fund board member, said Monday night he could not predict the direction the board would take.

If the property ultimately can end up in Hobart Restoration hands, Jim Hobart said other components must also fall into place.

One obstacle to the deal is a Toledo city-owned four-acre property which adjoins the IJH campus on the southeast. Hobart wants the city to sell it to his company for one dollar where he, in turn, plans to develop for what he terms "high-end homes." When questioned he said this would be a "deal-breaker" if Hobart Restoration does not obtain the land.

Hobart said, "I don't want to see someone coming in and piggybacking off of us. We want to build nice homes up there."

City Attorney Marquess said Iowa Code forbids cities from "gifting property," and, instead, must receive fair market value. Toledo Economic Development, a city program, paid $45,000 for the land a number of years ago.

Council member Brian Sokol said perhaps the city could look to progress benchmarks on the other IJH work and decide on the city land at a certain point of completion of the rest of the project. Hobart indicated agreement with that set up.

Hobart said his company also wants the city to be the applicant for an Iowa Finance Authority loan in the amount of some $685,000. He said only the city is eligible to make application and also termed it a deal-breaker if not done.

Council members Joe Boll and Sokol said the city has only about $2 million in bonding capacity available and said involvement with the loan could place the city in jeopardy in case of a default or need for other vital city projects.

"Our biggest concern is financial liability for the city," Sokol said.

"I feel somebody form the state needs to supplement Toledo, in some form," Boll said.

Kellogg said this message had been relayed to state officials by both State Rep. Dean Fisher and himself, but "got nothing."

However, Hobart said his company plans will seek historic tax credits and state funding in connection with various parts of the plan as well as tax increment financing and / or tax abatements.

"It's a complicated project to get all the financing together to make sure it works financially," Hobart said.

Hobart has predicted the city will realize $1 million annually in additional property tax revenue after a 10-year abatement period.

"We all need to be on the same page to get this moving forward, " Council member Darvin Graham said. "There has been breakdowns and miscommunication along the way."

"It's time to stop feeling bad," Brian Gumm, a Toledo resident and Tama business person said. He urged the council "to do everything it can as city government to be a full participant on the project and encourage State Rep. (Dean) Fisher to have the city as connected as possible."



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