Construction ongoing at 1917 Lofts

Construction has continued in earnest at the 1917 Lofts in Red Oak.
The project, taking place at the former Red Oak Middle School, will create 25 apartments in an income-based apartment complex when finished. The project was kicked off in 2019, but was met with numerous delays, including the COVID-19 pandemic.  Kelly Edmonds, president and employee owner of Merit Construction of Cedar Rapids, said his firm connected with the project’s original developer in September of 2021.
“They asked if we could help them out with on-site supervision and project management reports, and we agreed. We asked about seeing some contracts, and found out the project was drastically under-budgeted, mostly from the pricing increases that had happened during COVID-19. You couldn’t get labor for the same price, and the prices of lumber, drywall, and other materials all doubled,” Edmonds said.
According to Edmonds, they put together a budget to complete the project, and the cost of the project increased by around 80% from the initial budget in 2019.
“The owner told us to move forward with the money we had remaining in the initial loan, but not to go over that amount while they sought additional financing. From February through June of 2022, they were trying to get that. They were mainly trying to get American Rescue Plan Act funding. It was in June of 2022 that they found out they were denied the funding, so the project was shut down in June of 2022,” commented Edmonds.
From that point until July of 2023, Edmonds said the owner went through another process to apply for state tax incentives on a different platform, and they were successful in getting the funds awarded. In July of last year, the project went through loan documenting, a closing, and another appraisal, and the previous work done by the sub contractors and vendors was paid. Edmonds said they then got the green light to restart the project.  Edmonds said they returned to the project in August of last year, and returned to a massive mess.
“No one had been in here from the construction team, and we got back here to check everything out, and vandalism doesn’t even begin to describe it. People were in here for days tearing up the electrical system. Vandalism, and theft, you name it, and it happened. We then had to budget the cost of those repairs and replacements, and it ended up being a large insurance claim. We finally came to an agreement with the insurance carrier in February, and we started the repair work knowing it was going to be approved. We’ve spent 12 weeks doing repair work on the electrical system, mostly in parallel with the original scope of the project. There’s a few things we have to wait on, but it’s coming along now,” advised Edmonds.
The third floor is close to being completed, with cabinets and doors installed and floors being refinished, and the project, according to Edmonds, is back on-track, with limited threats of future vandalism,
“We have a presence here now. We’re running 30 to 40 tradesmen on-site daily, including painters, carpenters, dry wall crews, and finishers, and people know that things are happening. We’ve also got cameras up inside and outside everywhere that are being monitored 24 hours a day, so if someone does something in here, they will be on camera,” advised Edmonds. “With the progress we’ve made, we have more tradesmen on-site and more activities going on.”
Edmonds also said the exterior doors and windows will soon be replaced around the building.
“We’re expecting our first shipment of windows either late at the end of this month, or in early April, so by the middle of April, you’re going to be seeing a lot of new glass in here,” Edmonds stated.
One of the deadlines needing to be met to secure certain incentives is at the end of June.
“The way we’re forecasting right now, the exterior will look substantially complete, as well as in the interior, with the exception of the electrical systems. The main distribution equipment, switch gears, and primary and secondary panels have an extremely long lead time right now. So we’ll be waiting from the end of June until the fall or winter to get that switch gear in place and then everything will be under permanent power. We have power in place to the building with the old transformer, but we need around 2,000 amps in the building for its full load, and we only have 600 right now. We’ll be able to power up individual units, AC systems, and fire alarms, and get the occupancy granted by the state,” explained Edmonds.
One benefit, said Edmonds, is that the cost of materials has stabilized since the COVID-19 pandemic.
“You can get a sheet of drywall right now for $14. We were seeing that be $30 to $40 per sheet at one point, so that’s back down to where it should be. While they have stabilized, they are not down to the same price they used to be before COVID.”
Edmonds said he’s pleased his construction firm was able to be a part of the project and keep it going.
“This is something good for the community, and the building itself is just a cool building. They don’t build them like this anymore. To be able to turn it from something that was a bit of an eyesore to something that will help the community and look great, it feels good. We’d like to do more work. We’ve made some good relationships here in town. We have subcontractors from Harlan, Atlantic, and Des Moines, and we’re hoping to stay in the area here in some presence,” said Edmonds.
Lastly, Edmonds said he’s hopeful to keep getting support from the community for the project.
“As much support as we can get from the community the better. We’re trying to finish this project quickly, and it always helps to have a cheering section here. This is complicated, there are a lot of milestones we need to hit, and we’re looking for any help we can get emotionally, physically, or otherwise,” Edmonds commented.
Leasing agents for the apartments are Beacon Management, LLC of Omaha, Neb. For more information, visit, or visit the Facebook page at

The Red Oak Express

2012 Commerce Drive
P.O. Box 377
Red Oak, IA 51566
Phone: 712-623-2566 Fax: 712-623-2568

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