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Cedar Rapids' First Downtown Summit Upbeat

May 11, 2010
Cedar Rapids' First Downtown Summit Upbeat

May 11, 2010
By: David DeWitte


The president of Gronen Properties in Dubuque and U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, were featured speakers.

John Gronen told stories of the many buildings he’d been told weren’t worth saving that his company went on to restore successfully and profitably.

“Within reason, you can save almost any building,” Gronen told about  listeners at the Cedar Rapids Downtown District event. Saving old buildings is almost always more sustainable than destroying them and building new, Gronen said, because they save the “energy” built into the structures.

Gronen’s reputation has spread as his company expanded from one modest building restoration project using federal historic preservation tax credits to the green restoration of the once-grand Roshek Brothers Department Store that helped bring  a large IBM operations center to Dubuqe.

To date, his company has restored a half-million square feet of historic building space at a cost of more than $65 million.

Gronen emphasized the importance of building sustainably, using multiple forms of sophisticated financing, and going over each project extra-carefully in the pre-development phase. Gronen projects often reduce the energy bills in the structures by half from their pre-renovation levels.

The real estate arm of IBM was not keen to put the project in Dubuque, Gronen said, because the company had already identified a new “spec” building in South Carolina that was finished and ready to go.

“They thought we’d never it that done by the June (2008) deadline,” Gronen said. “We were told pretty clearly by some people we’d never be able to pull this off.”

Gronen credited a team that included Paulson Electric Co. of Cedar Rapids that worked nights, weekends, and even holidays to make incredibly tight project deadlines.


Click here for the full story from gazetteonline.com.

Click here for more information on Paulson Electric's work at the historic Roshek Building.