Dillman offers to donate building to city of McGregor

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Pat Dillman has offered to donate her building in McGregor’s historic Masonic Block to the city, opening up a slew of opportunities for development of the prime downtown location. Dillman’s section of the building stretches from 134 to 138 Main Street and is distinguished by its dark green lower level with large windows. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

Pat Dillman has offered to donate her building in McGregor’s historic Masonic Block to the city, opening up a slew of opportunities for development of the prime downtown location.

Mayor Lyle Troester, speaking at the Sept. 18 council meeting, said he’s discussed the idea with Dillman and her family over the past year.

“She’s starting to want to get her affairs in order,” he said, “and she’s willing to donate the building to the city with no requirements,” regarding the usage or sale of the building. She’s simply requested an acknowledgment of the donation as well as the efforts she and husband Bruce put into restoring the structure.

According to the McGregor historic walking tour booklet, the Masonic Block was designed by McGregor architect Elias Jacobs and constructed by Clarke and Rich, who were wholesale dealers in liquor, cigars, oysters and billiard tables. The Masonic Temple and Lodge Hall were located on the upper floors, while the lower level housed a variety of businesses over the years, including Newell’s Drug Store around 1874 and a bowling alley and flour and feed store in 1902. Later tenants were Goodie Garden, Polar Pantry and, in the 1950s, Kueters’ Cleaners. The McGregor Library was even located there at one time, as was the First Congregational Church, temporarily, in 1949, when the church burned. In the 1980s and 1990s, it was home to the Stone Balloon Book Store, which had a tea garden in back.

Don and Mary Lou Hattery began restoration of the building and, in 1999, the Dillmans finished the downstairs to house their antique shop, Diamond Jo Trading, until it closed over a decade ago.

Dillman’s section of the building, which stretches from 134 to 138 Main Street and is distinguished by its dark green lower level with large windows, is 75 feet by 75 feet in size, Troester said. The city could choose to sell or retain it.

“Ideally,” he noted, “an investor would agree to take it over.” Some individuals have already shown interest.

The lower level is in fairly good shape, said Troester, and he envisions it as office or retail space. Chunking it up into more manageable sections could attract smaller businesses or pop-up shops. 

“If you have it, it’s going to fill up,” he said.

The upper two floors will admittedly take some work, Troester stated, but could potentially make a nice boutique hotel or AirBnB accommodations.

“It’s a heck of a challenge,” he told the council, “but it opens up a lot of possibilities. The view is fantastic and it’s in the heart of downtown.”

The building is valued at an estimated $250,000, and Troester felt the city owed it to itself, the community and the Dillmans to do something with the space. He felt progress there could kickstart other projects in town and add to the businesses and attractions McGregor already offers.

“The businesses we have are great, but we want to have more businesses. That would help everyone,” he said. “It’s a tremendous, generous gift, and a heck of an opportunity for the town.”

Most of the council members agreed. 

“I think we should pursue it, then we can decide what we want done with it,” said councilman Joe Muehlbauer.

He, along with Janet Hallberg, Rogeta Halvorson and Charlie Carroll, voted to accept the donation offer. Jason Echard voted “no.” The city’s attorney, Mike Schuster, will now begin the process of acquiring the property.

Ordinance amendment would make alley two-way

At the meeting, the council approved the first reading of an ordinance amendment that would allow two-way traffic on the alley from Main Street to the First Street parking lot. The city hopes this will help keep delivery trucks from driving around Triangle Park and further damaging the historic bricks.

Winter parking changes suggested

Street supervisor Ren Pape suggested several changes to the city’s winter parking regulations. He would like to see no parking on Prospect Street, as well as alternate side parking on both Ann and A streets, from Nov. 1 to March 15, to make clearing snow easier. Alternate side parking on Ann and A streets would follow the same schedule as Main Street.

City clean-up is next week

The city reminds residents that fall clean-up for most of the town is this Tuesday, Oct. 1. However, for residents in McGregor Heights, Tanglewood, Ridgewood West and Summit, the date will be Monday, Sept. 30 instead.

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