Another LIFT is underway

The same local nonprofit that is restoring the Elks building has taken on a new task

James Vesey, a Fort Dodge masonry specialist, is at working repairing the brick on the burned-out building in downtown Webster City that will now be called 608.

Call it 608.

The building that burned and brought the Webster Theater temporarily to its knees late last fall has a new name and new ownership.

The new moniker is 608.

The new owner is LIFT WC, or Local Initiative for Transformation WC, Inc.

“It has always been bigger than the Elks building,” Darcy Swon, LIFT’s board president, said Tuesday. “It’s always been about downtown revitalization, community (at) the core of what we’re doing, and we always knew that once we got the building done, we were going to be looking at other projects to take on.”

She added, “It came about a little sooner than what we were planning.”

Despite being in the middle of the massive historical renovation of the Elks building in the 700 block of Second Street in downtown Webster City, all of the members of the LIFT WC agreed that the local nonprofit should undertake the mission of saving the burned-out building.

Structurally, it is sound, John Hawkins, Webster City’s mayor and LIFT board member, said.

“We have an engineer’s report that … said that the building is quite capable of being rebuilt. The walls are fine. Yes, there’s some damage on the top, but that can be redone,” he said.

“The top floor is a concrete floor from one end to the other. It’s concrete. Now it’s not concrete as we know it now,” he said. It’s clay brick that is solid filled. “It’s what they did before they had precast.”

He added, “So the building’s a very solid building. I mean, so is it worth saving? Yeah.”

Also, important to understand in the move to save the building is 608’s role in stabilizing its neighbors. Without it, different problems would arise.

Ongoing now is repair of the brick facade and the creation of brick infill by James Vesey, a Fort Dodge masonry specialist. It could take several more weeks for that work to be complete. When it is, the immediate goal is to reopen the sidewalk.

Imminent, also, is a new roof.

Swon and Hawkins said the vast amount of water poured into the structure when battling the fire, coupled with any moisture from it being exposed to weather without a roof, has made some mold mitigation ultimately necessary as well.

When those three things are completed, the building will be on the market for a purchaser who wants to take it the rest of the way to a new life.

“It’ll just be completely framed, that’s it,” Hawkins said. “And the same thing on the main level is it will be gutted out, the framing will be still there.”

To help pay for this work, Hamilton County’s Economic Development Director Cindy Im is requesting a $100,000 emergency Catalyst Grant from Iowa Economic Development. Hawkins said the city will also be asked to match that $100,000.

Hawkins and John Harrenstein, Webster City’s interim city manager, together discussed having the city take over the 608 building.

“He definitely wanted to get something happening. And of course I wanted to get something happening.”

Ultimately, it made more sense for LIFT to take it under its wing.

“It goes back to reinforce really what this organization is about,” Swon said, “and we could not pass up the opportunity to do that to reinforce who we are.”


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