The City of Glidden is renovating the former downtown newspaper office into a community fitness center.
The City of Glidden is renovating the former downtown newspaper office into a community fitness center.
March 21, 2014

The former Glidden Graphic newsroom is taking on new life as the city renovates the building into a community fitness facility.

The idea was sparked in February 2013 when Glidden-Ralston High School students Adam Ewoldt, Douglas Gordon, Shelby Kramer, Matthew Pottroff, Traer Schon and Gage Schultz presented their proposal for the building to city council members as part of a school project.

The students were taking a business writing class taught by Diane Thelin. Thelin has been teaching the business writing course since the 1980s. However, with the recent implementation of the Iowa Core, Thelin added a project to meet the real-life-relevancy requirement of the core standards - a mock grant proposal.

The students identify a need in their school or community, conduct surveys and research costs and potential impact before presenting a formal proposal to relative officials, such as the superintendent, school board or city council, explained Thelin.

"It's pretty true to real life in the preliminary steps people take when they are starting to build toward a big project," she said. "The kids actually see their work do something."

Thelin said a former group of students also proposed a fitness facility to the city council a few years ago. However, the first proposal was to build a new facility, while the current proposal repurposes an existing vacant downtown building, explained Thelin.

"It was a win-win," said Glidden city clerk Suzanne Danner. "The council picked up the ball."

The council saw the proposed project as a way to prevent a downtown building from deteriorating while filling a longtime need in the small community, she said. The building had been vacant for about a year - the Graphic's new editor, Bill Brown, didn't need the 50-by-100-foot building - when the city purchased the building from Raccoon Valley Publications in September 2013 for $12,000.

Asbestos was found and removed in three sections of the building - around an old boiler in the basement, part of the roof surrounding a skylight, and under linoleum at the front entrance. The next step was to clean and "gut" the building's interior, selling old machinery in a silent auction and removing more than a century's worth of bound newspaper editions in the process, said Danner. Those editions are now stored in the city building.

Cleanup was completed by city public works employees, North Central Correctional Facility workers and student volunteers from Kathy Sporrer's confirmation class from St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church.

The council approved initial designs in January and hired Rick Emswiler of Missouri Valley as chief architect.

The building, which was built in 1905, will have three clear sections - the front will feature fitness equipment ranging from elliptical machines and treadmills to weight machines; the back will be a multipurpose classroom area that can house yoga, zumba, possibly a net for golfers to practice their swings, or other fitness classes for which the city can hire a teacher; and the two will be separated by restrooms that will include showers. Around the interior perimeter of the facility will be an 8-foot walking path.

Finals plans are slated to be approved by the council in April with the hope to award a construction bid by May, said Danner. The goal is to have the facility open to public by the start of the winter season in October or November.

The facility will be equipped with security cameras and will have some sort of 24-hour access, said Danner. No decisions have been made regarding membership fees.

Total project cost is estimated at $450,000. The city has committed $250,000 in tax increment financing money, funded by the taxes on the local elevator improvements completed last year.

So far, the city has received a $1,839 Timmerman Trust grant and $5,000 Renze Trust grant for equipment, collected about $3,000 from sale of the building's contents, more than $22,000 in private donations and a $1,050 Department of Natural Resources grant for asbestos inspection.

It has also applied for $122,5000 in state and local foundation grants.

"It won't have everything other facilities have, but it's something for our community," said Danner. "I think it gives character to it."