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Historic Preservation


Preservation and Adaptive Re-use of Iowa's Historic School Buildings by Conversion to Affordable Rental Housing

School districts who are contemplating closing a building are often faced with the question of what to do with the building. Demolition can be expensive especially when asbestos or lead-based paint might be present.

An alternative that some districts in Iowa and around the nation have used is to sell or give the building to a housing developer for conversion to affordable rental apartments. Some successful examples in Iowa include: the former Emerson and Whittier Elementary Schools in Waterloo; the former Central High School in Sioux City is now Castle on the Hill Apartments; St. Katherine's Girls School in Davenport is now Senior Apartments and the entire campus of Marycrest College in Davenport is being converted to a senior housing campus with independent and assisted living options.

Affordable housing financing is available to housing developers through the Iowa Finance Authority using federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC). Developers apply for the credits through an annual competitive process. The apartments are restricted to persons whose incomes are below 60 percent Area Median Income and rent levels are similarly restricted to keep the units affordable. Many times when buildings are in older neighborhoods, the income and rent restrictions are not very different then the current market for the neighborhood. However, the redevelopment project can bring investment to these neighborhoods for the first time in many years. Further the preservation of an historic building is often the spark that results in reinvestment in the housing stock of an older neighborhood.

If a district is interested in this process and would like to contact prospective developers with experience using the credits and managing such apartments, contact:

The Iowa Finance Authority
East Grand Office Park
100 East Grand Avenue, Suite 250
Des Moines IA 50309

Section 106 Review and Compliance

The links explain the regulations, compliance, and review for the Section 106 process of protecting historic properties. This applies to school districts that receive federal funds for the renovation or demolition of school facilities over fifty years old. The Iowa Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) reviews all projects that are federally funded, licensed, or permitted and may affect historic properties. The law and regulations governing this review are Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended, and its implementing regulations, 36 CFR Part 800, revised effective August 5, 2004. Under this act, federal agencies are required to take into account the effects of their actions, called "undertakings", on historic resources. Certain projects funded in whole or in part by the Iowa Demonstration Construction Grant Program may be considered "undertakings" under Section 106 and should be reviewed according to the procedures outlined in 36 CFR Part 800.

State Historical Society of Iowa: Section 106 Review Process

Advisory Council of Historic Preservation