It’s never a positive thing when a structure in a downtown municipal area has a fire, especially when that fire results in a near total loss. It’s also devastating when that building happens to be the town’s city hall and city offices. That is what happened in Keokuk back in February when the former city hall building on Blondeau Street was destroyed by a blaze of unknown origins.
Nonetheless, things could not have gone better for the City of Keokuk this spring in its pursuit of a new building to call home.
That trend came full circle at Thursday’s Keokuk City Council meeting at Torrance Preschool. During the workshop session that preceded the regular council meeting, Connection Bank and Insurance President and CEO Matt Morris made the council an offer that seemed too good to be true.
Morris explained to the council that the intention of the Connection Board is to donate its two main street properties that currently house its respective insurance and banking divisions to the city; totally free of charge. The two buildings sit at 501 and 515 Main Street and last week the Keokuk City Hall Committee already unanimously voted to move forward with negotiations regarding the transfer of the building to city ownership.
The CEO and President explained that the goal of Connection is to consolidate the insurance and banking divisions under one roof in Keokuk.
“The plan is to build a two-story facility with a three-lane drive up. We’re looking to take a piece of ground right now that is totally bare, with nothing on it. And it’s right on Main Street with the project including a sizable investment.”
In previous conversations with the City Hall Committee, Morris has notified officials that Connection is looking to acquire property in the 2100 block of Main Street that sits in between Auto Zone and American Eye Care. That piece of land is currently undeveloped with the only potential hiccup being that there is a city sewer line running through it.
Morris also addressed any concerns citizens or city officials may have with the potential loss of downtown taxable property that Connection would be gifting to Keokuk.
“Right now between our two buildings downtown, we’ve been valued at about 1.1 million dollars assessed. We anticipate the new facility will be probably two and a half to three times that. So the increase in tax base will be beneficial to the city as well.”
Council member Roger Bryant stated that another benefit that the City Hall Commission identified with the Connections buildings is that the structures have not sat vacant like many of the other properties the city has looked at.
Finally, Morris laid out the timeline for how long it should take for Connection Bank and Insurance to depart the two buildings so that the city can begin the move in to their new prospective city hall.
“We’ve begun the preliminary process. We would like to think we could be in our new facility next spring sometime. We’re probably on a nine to ten month design-to-construction time frame because we have recent experience in building a structure like this with our new Burlington location.”
City Administrator Cole O’Donnell stated that once the current Connection occupants depart, the city could be up and running at the facility in three to six months at the longest.
Multiple council members thanked Matt Morris and he was given a round of applause after his ten minute presentation. Once the regular council meeting started, the council unanimously approved of a resolution to begin negotiations with Connection to receive the property as well as to issue a request for proposals from architectural and engineering firms to produce a report on the two structures.