North Grand building now on National Register

North Grand building
North Grand building
By Bob Steenson, 

The former middle school building on North Grand Avenue in Charles City has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the National Park Service announced recently.

The National Register is the official list of the nation’s historic places worthy of preservation, according to the Park Service, which manages the list.

It is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate and protect America’s historic and archeological resources, according to the service website,

The Board of Education approved an agreement in June giving Charles City developer and attorney Charles Thomson the option to purchase the building for $1, to be developed into apartments, with the stipulation that he enter into a development agreement for renovations to the building.

Thomson said Monday he is very pleased that the building has been recognized for its historic significance.

“It’s a wonderful building, entirely deserving of listing on the Register,” he said.

Being listed can be favorable as far as development, Thomson said.

“It makes available a suite of tax incentives for restoration of historic projects,” Thomson said. However, because of Iowa’s current budget situation, the availability of state historic tax credits is in question, he added.

Thomson said he is pursuing the background work required to be able to exercise the option to purchase the building.

He also said it is important for people to realize what the option requires.

“Yes, it says (the building will be sold) for a dollar, but it also requires over a million dollars in renovation” as part of a required development agreement, he said.

The building at 500 N. Grand Ave. will be listed as the Charles City Junior-Senior High School on the National Register. It was built in 1932 and first served as the Charles City High School before becoming first a junior high school then a middle school after a new high school was built in the late 1960s.

It stopped serving as general purpose classrooms when the new middle school opened last school year. The building is still the location for school district administrative offices, Iowa BIG North and the Carrie Lane High School Program. And the auditorium is still used for some school and community events.

If Thomson purchases the building he would lease the eastern addition, built in 1970, back to the district for at least three years for $1 per year. The original auditorium would also be included in the lease.

Mark Wicks, Charles City community development director, said the building’s listing on the National Register is good news for the community.

“It’s now eligible for federal and state tax credits to do any work on the building,” he said.

It also helps when applying for state and federal restoration grants, Wicks said.

“The National Register gives you preferred status,” he said. “You score a lot higher when applying for grants if you are on the list.”