High school construction project a win-win-win-win

Sometimes everything falls into place.

There’s a project underway in downtown Jefferson that would be a win-win-win-win.

The quartet of winners is Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency (AEA), Greene County High School, Jefferson Matters: Main Street and the entire Greene County community.

The project is the restoration of a handsome upper-level apartment in the Prairie Lakes AEA office building on the north side of the Square, as well as the potential renovation of the large, second-floor area into a commodious work space for entrepreneurs who want companionship while they work, and for a community meeting area.

What makes the apartment unique is that it’s the brainchild of Greene County High School interior design junior student Colby Aspengren, who designed it, priced it out and selected the furnishings, color scheme and everything else.

Colby took on the project in last year’s second trimester while a sophomore as an independent design project. The high school construction class will be doing most of the restoration work.

High school design class instructor Donna Carhill, who suggested the project to Colby, oversees the apartment design project, while construction class instructor Chad Morman will superintend the hands-on work.

Here’s why it’s a quadruple win:

• For Prairie Lakes AEA, the project will provide rental income to help offset the purchase cost of the building. And, of course, being a part of an impressive educational project is right in the AEA’s wheelhouse.

Prairie Lakes has committed $25,000 for the apartment project.

• For Greene County High School, it’s a golden opportunity to expand classroom learning into a real-world project for design and construction students alike.

Renovation, particularly the restoration aspect of a historical building, is a new venture for the students, and it’s an aspect that’s become increasingly important in Iowa communities in recent years.

• For Jefferson Matters: Main Street, it’s an exciting prospect to continue the downtown improvement work that the organization has championed for the past few years.

The local Main Street group, spearheaded by its Economic Vitality Committee, is submitting an application for a matching grant to Main Street Iowa, using the Prairie Lakes commitment in order to seek matching funds for the second-floor work space portion.

The entire project would demonstrate the possibilities of additional upper-floor apartments downtown, and possibly inspire other building owners to add to the present number.

The three-story Prairie Lakes building has hardwood floors, exposed brick walls and high ceilings, characteristics whose preservation is important to Main Street Iowa, and the restoration plans for the building respect its integrity.

• For Greene County, downtown apartments are one answer to the area’s housing shortage, and renovating the second floor would assist local entrepreneurs with their work space needs as well as creating another meeting room where business mentors could coach locals on their business ventures.   

Actual work on the project is a few months away.

Cost estimates for the work space part will be drawn up this Friday. There are 54 Main Street Iowa communities, many of which will be seeking grant money, and the grants won’t be announced until November.

So the large work space portion of the renovation project is still a drawing-board possibility as of yet. But the grant application is a strong one. And the apartment restoration is definitely a go.

The many groups involved in the effort have worked smoothly together.

Their goal is certainly a worthy one.

Contact Us

Jefferson Bee & Herald
Address: 200 N. Wilson St.
Jefferson, IA 50129

Phone:(515) 386-4161