||Visible Progress for Ignite Denison Project
Article by Dan Mundt-Denison Bulletin & Review
Recent changes to the exterior of the former Denison Community Room building are a visible sign that the “Ignite Denison” project is picking up speed.
A new glass façade and a new door were put on the building last week.
Ignite Denison is a project to refurbish the Community Room building, which sits next to the Denison City Hall, and turn it into office space for the Chamber & Development Council (CDC) of Crawford County and a business incubator space.
CDC Executive Director Evan Blakley said the CDC has been working with community partners to raise the final amount of funds needed.
“Our total project cost is estimated to be $265,000,” he said. “We have so far raised $194,000, leaving a balance of $71,000,” Blakley said.
The most recently announced gift toward the project was a $12,500 gift from the Denison Rotary Club.
A $10,000 grant from the Crawford County Community Foundation, which was required to be used before the end of the calendar year, paid for the exterior improvements to the building’s façade.
“That is a significant improvement and a very obvious step forward in the project,” Blakley said.
The old glass that was on the front of the building was leaking air and water and had been collecting a lot of condensation, he said.
“It was just some single-pane glass that has now all been replaced with very tight energy-efficient, state-of-the-art glass,” he said.
“It’s a huge visual improvement and will also be an improvement for energy efficiency for many years into the future. It has really opened up the space and made the façade much more attractive.”
The front of the building originally had large garage doors; part of the top area had been closed off above the doors when the building was converted to the Community Room. That area has now been opened up.
“We’re utilizing the entire gap that was there for the garage doors,” Blakley said. “It is now all glass and the framework, which was specially ordered in red.”
He said a lot of time had been spent choosing the perfect shade of red – one that would blend in with the building, would be bold and would also reference the history of the space as a former fire hall.
“Altogether it’s just an incredible improvement,” Blakley said. “It’s pretty striking when you drive by. I think it’s been a lackluster looking building for a while - and it was vacant and dark. Now, even with that one improvement, it’s already getting folks talking and excited about the space and the future of our project.”
A more subtle improvement that took place last weekend was the pressure-washing of the building’s exterior brickwork.
“It was a little grimy and dark in places and now it looks really great,” he said. “All the color is restored in the brick. People may not realize why it looks a little fresher overall - but that’s why.”
Blakley said a mockup of a new cornice for the building is complete.
“The cornice will go at the top of the façade and add some more architectural interest and dimension – and it will add about a foot and a half to two feet of height to the overall building, as well,” he said.
The cornice may yet go up before the end of the year, he said.
Blakley and the general contractor for the project, Reisz Construction, of Denison, met with a structural engineer to go over the plans for the removal of part of the floor at the front of the building to create an open staircase that will go down into the lower level.
“We also looked at widening a door in the lower level in the back and adding another window in the back, as well,” he said. “We want to let a lot of natural light into this space.”
The building was reroofed and demolition of the interior took place in December of last year.
Blakley said plans for building occupancy have changed since the project was announced.
“Originally the plan was to have the regional workforce office move in there with us, but that was going to be a small satellite location,” he said. “Because they’re moving the full regional (IowaWorks) office to the community, obviously they couldn’t fit there anymore.”
The CDC will move from its space in the Donna Reed Theater building to more suitable offices in the Ignite Denison building, he said.
The building will have additional professional amenities such as private offices and an enclosed conference room, which the CDC currently lacks.
“The conference room will also be a shared space with any of the small businesses and entrepreneurs,” Blakley said.
One-third of the lower level will be a storage space for items used for CDC events and business operations, but the rest of that area will be reserved as business incubator/accelerator space or workspace for those businesses.
“It’s going to be a modular design and very flexible to the needs of the community,” he said. “If we have one business that applies first, and they need the entire space for some sort of product production, we could allow them to rent the entire space.”
Rent will be free for the first six months and will gradually increase thereafter.
“They will also get weekly business coaching from employees of the CDC and they will also have small business development experts visiting at least monthly,” Blakley said. “We will have milestones and attendance requirements in place in exchange for the free rent. We want to see the space utilized to its full potential. In exchange, they’ll get all sorts of coaching, guidance and resources right there in the same building.”
Blakley said multiple small businesses or entrepreneurs will make up an ideal mix for the building.
“The goal will be to create a community where all of the small businesses and startups are feeding off of each other, encouraging each other and learning from one another as they grow, in addition to the resources that we provide,” he said. “It will be a great place to grow a business.”
The CDC offers many levels of sponsorships for businesses or individuals that donate toward the completion of the project.
“We plan to put a donor wall into the entrance for donors over a certain amount, which will be a nice way for a sponsorship to live on for the life of the building,” Blakley said.
Any size of donation is welcome.
“Every little bit helps us restore a nice building that is central in the community, and also helps us move forward with our goal of growing new businesses within the community,” he said. “Even a $5 gift is helpful.”
The CDC, located at 18 S Main Street in Denison, may be contacted at 712-263-5621.