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Repurposing older buildings to new uses

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MASON CITY, Iowa - While the fate of one historic building is set to be decided by the end of the year, another is being repurposed.

Albert Lea-based artists Elisha Marin and Susanne Crane bought the former YWCA Building over a year ago. Under the name 2 Artists, LLC, they're working with the North Iowa Corridor Housing Development Corporation to construct 10 apartment units on the west side of the building, and will also include multi-use building that will also include additional apartment spaces and studio space. More work on the building is expected to get underway this year.

Both Marin and Crane believe in reinvesting and repurposing historical buildings, and are finding a common pattern amidst the pandemic.

"A lot of people are moving from cities to smaller and medium sized towns. Mason City is well positioned for that," Marin says.

"And welcoming. That's an important thing. I think Mason City has something that goes above and beyond a lot of other medium to small towns in that everybody is so interested in what kind of ideas could take root there," Crane says.

With talk of potentially redeveloping Mohawk Square as a residential building, they're hopeful to see it be restored to provide some much-needed housing in Downtown.

"We're strong believers in historic building re-use. You get one shot per generation to keep your historic buildings and preserve that. It's a shame to get to where they can't be repaired," Marin says.

"It's like dropping the ball, that's it, game over, they're gone. Really, the leadership in Mason City is way above what you would expect to find. Way more into the architecture, culture and preservation. That attracted us," Crane says.

During this past Tuesday's city council meeting, city officials noted that they have spoken to developers about redeveloping the building that once housed Mason City High School, though there are concerns of repairing damage from a hole in the roof that was created during a storm in May 2019. This week, city council voted to secure an option to buy Mohawk Square, as well as nearby parking lots. However, officials said they had no intention of buying the properties, as the option would be to allow the city to hire someone to perform a structural evaluation to seek developer interest. If no developer is found, demolition could be on the table.

Mohawk Square

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