Plans for former JCPenney/Tierney’s building to move forward following receipt of $100,000 grant ...

The Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) recently announced $2.6 million in grant funding to help 26 communities across the state revitalize their downtown districts. The grants were awarded through the Community Catalyst Building Remediation program. Each community was awarded a $100,000 grant to help redevelop or rehabilitate underused buildings as a way to stimulate economic growth and reinvestment in the community. Among those $100,000 grant recipients was the City of Waukon for use in a proposed development agreement and renovation project for the former JCPenney/Tierney’s building (pictured above) on the corner of Main Street and Spring Avenue in the heart of downtown Waukon to be transformed into a steakhouse restaurant.

“Downtown districts are the heart and soul of our communities, and their strength is critical to the state’s overall well-being,” IEDA and Iowa Finance Authority Executive Director Debi Durham said. “The Community Catalyst program not only helps strengthen our downtowns at a critical time of economic recovery, it also inspires growth and development for years to come.”

The Community Catalyst program was created in 2018 and is funded through an appropriation from the Iowa Legislature. Iowa cities were invited to apply following approval of their pre-applications. Projects are scored based on criteria that include impact, funding/partnerships and incorporation of sustainability and smart growth principles. At least 40% of the grants are awarded to cities with populations of less than 1,500, according to program rules. Cities are required to provide financial and/or in-kind resources to supplement these projects. For more information on the Community Catalyst program, visit or contact Jim Thompson at 515-348-6183 or

Receipt of the grant funding allows for the estimated $400,000 building renovation project to move forward through a development agreement between the City of Waukon and Arturo Barreda and Jose Velarde, both of Waukon and owners of Fiesta Vallarta Mexican Restaurant just a couple blocks directly east of the former JCPenney/Tierney building location in Waukon. City officials say that development agreement is still being finalized between the involved parties but, in addition to the recently-awarded grant funding, will include a contribution of $200,000 from Barreda and Velarde, along with a $100,000 contribution from the City, part of which is also being funded by another recently received grant through the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Derelict Building Program. Barreda and Velarde formally presented City of Waukon officials with the proposal during a special work session of the Waukon City Council in September of last year.

Having sat idle for approximately 20 years since once housing thriving retail businesses such as JCPenney and more recently Tierney’s Clothing prior to the turn of the century, the building fell into disrepair under the ownership of Michael and Earle Johnson before changing ownership several other times and eventually being gifted to Waukon Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) in late 2014 and then to the City of Waukon early last year. Faced with the possibility of having to tear down the building, an effort that revealed estimated direct and indirect costs nearing $200,000, the restaurant proposal presented to the City of Waukon by Barreda and Velarde now combined with the receipt of the IEDA Community Catalyst Building Remediation Program funding has the potential to breathe new life into the building, with further details of the overall plan to be made available as they become finalized between all parties involved. Standard photo by Joe Moses.