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Downtown Burlington, Iowa bustling

Rex L. Troute, The Hawk Eye, Burlington, Iowa

The pounding of hammers and buzzing of electric saws were common sounds this year in downtown Burlington.Construction projects ranged from the extremely large – the restoration of the First United Methodist Church – to the smaller, but equally important, creation of more apartments for downtown living.

The rebuild of the First United Methodist Church from the ashes of a 2007 arson fire comes with the biggest price tag at $9.4 million.

“It is truly an impressive project, not only the scope of the restoration work, but the way they want to use the buildings,” said Steve Frevert, director of Downtown Partners Inc.

The work on the church began in July 2010 and is estimated to cost $6.56 million. BCS Construction Services LLC is the general contractor. With the church largely enclosed, work has turned to the inside where a sanctuary, a nursery, classrooms and meeting rooms will be constructed. The congregation is expected to take possession of the church in mid-May 2012.

“I think it is going to be a fantastic fit with all the activity going on downtown,” Frevert said.

The remaining $2.89 million is being used to remodel the former Stoermers building at 416 Jefferson St. for offices, community rooms and more.

Downtown living has become a popular trend in recent years. The number of apartment projects in 2011 show the trend is continuing in Burlington.

Work was finished or under way in five locations downtown. And more are coming.

“Twenty-eight more apartments are in the planning stages, and we expect construction on some of them to start in the spring,” Frevert said.

Downtown Partners Inc. got involved in the rebirth of downtown by purchasing a half block of Jefferson Street, which included the “bookend buildings.” DPI bought the two ornate buildings, plus a building in between, for $155,000 in April.

The “bookend buildings” have drawn interest from local and outside developers, but no firm offers have been made.

Construction began in May at the Capitol Theater, which will become a venue for movies and live entertainment. The Capitol Theater Foundation also purchased an adjacent building to augment space in the theater.

The first event in the theater, a gala opening celebration, is scheduled for June 2012. Movies, live music and other forms of entertainment are planned for the opening.

After a fire destroyed the former home of Hopefully Yours, the gift shop found a new home in April at 425 Valley St. The nonprofit entity has applied for a Community Development Block Grant in order to develop offices in the building and expand the gift shop.

The new Preservation Station will open in January at 213 Valley St.

Also in 2011, Mac Coffin, president of Frank Millard and Co., led the expansion of the firm’s sheet metal fabrication shop at 107 Valley St.

Frevert estimated there is $25 million worth of projects under way, double the previous 25 years.

“There are more big projects on the horizon,” Frevert said.



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