Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

CNHI/SE Iowa

May 20, 2013

Reviving downtown's upper stories

OTTUMWA — Building by building, the upper stories of downtown Ottumwa are coming back to life after some have sat empty for half a century.

Main Street Ottumwa's annual Upstairs/Downtown event showed the public four buildings in downtown Ottumwa in varying stages of rehabilitation on Saturday: 228 E. Second St., 113 E. Main St., 221 E. Main St. and 332 E. Main St.

Shape Up Ottumwa, situated on the third floor above Premier Dance Center on East Second Street, was barely recognizable to those who participated in the tour last year.

"At that time, we didn't have a definite tenant lined up," said Josh Gettings, whose girlfriend, Roxanne Cagwin, owns the fitness studio. "Her business was growing and she needed extra space, so we looked at the possibility of utilizing this space. It blossomed from there."

The group began revamping the space in February and made sure to preserve some of its historic aesthetic qualities, Gettings said, such as the hard wood floors and French-style windows.

"Main Street Iowa officials say to go with what the space needs in order to make it viable," he said.

Around the corner at 221 E. Main St., those on the tour walked into a building, the first floor of which is in the beginning stages of rehabilitation. It will eventually be used as a commercial space, said David Uehling, but so far no tenant has been secured.

"Last year it was deconstructed," Uehling said. "But this floor has been exposed now, as well as the original ceiling. Our hope is that the tenant will leave the original tile and ceiling."

Upstairs, Nick Klimek and Jordan Scupien gave tours of their apartments, which have also undergone a dramatic change in the last year. Klimek's apartment retained some of the original brick walls, but architect Rod Curtis helped Klimek and his girlfriend design the apartment in a way that maximized the space and gave it a modern feel.

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