MASON CITY | As recent as a few years ago, a row of aging, nondescript homes stood between those who wanted to walk from downtown Mason City to the community's historic Prairie Style architecture.

Mostly rentals, some were in such disrepair they had been white-tagged as uninhabitable. 

It wasn't a good look, but the neighborhood is in the middle of a major facelift due to the combined efforts of two separate projects.

A dozen homes on the 300 block of First Street Northeast are gone, replaced by Good Shepherd's Prairie Place on 1st condo development.

Several other homes were torn down on the 300 block of East State and on North Connecticut Avenue to make room for four architecturally significant homes from the flood-ravaged Oak Park Place neighborhood. 

"You (once) had to walk through kind of a dicey-looking neighborhood that that's really changed," said Mason City Development Services Director Steven Van Steenhuyse. "And, I think that's a great thing for the city."

Demolition for the 32-unit condo project, which is managed by Good Shepherd, began in 2015.

That same summer, the nonprofit Community Benefit-Mason City oversaw the relocation of the Egloff house and three other homes — a 1936 Tudor Revival, 1923 American Four Square and 1941 limestone Period Revival cottage — to East State.

The four homes were slated to be demolished as part of the government buyouts of flood-stricken areas.

Community Benefit-Mason City member Robin Anderson said project initially focused soley on the Egloff House, but expanded to include the other three homes as as a way to preserve the significant architecture and revitalize the neighborhood.

"Although it makes no financial sense, I think it certainly made sense for our community to try to save some of this unusual architecture," she said.

Anderson said she's been notified the Egloff House, a two-story International Style home built in 1938, will be added to the National Register of Historic Places.

It's in good company in the neighborhood: about two blocks away, the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Stockman House and Rock Crest/Rock Glen Historic District are also on the Register. 

Even though work on the relocated homes isn't finished, Van Steenhuyse already believes the project — and the condos — will have a big impact on transforming the neighborhood for the better.

"Usually what happens is that when one major property improves then it tends to have a catalytic effect on other properties," he said. "I think we're going to see more and more houses in that neighborhood rehabbed or turned back into single-family homes or just fixed up to look nicer."

The program uses Tax Increment Financing dollars to buy, rehab and sell former rental housing.

As for the Egloff House, Anderson said the group hopes to find a tenant. 

The target demographics are visiting professionals, medical students or others in need of temporary, quality furnished housing. 

The group is still renovating the Egloff House, which needs HVAC, plumbing and electrical repairs, and facilitating the sale of the Tudor. 

The other two homes have been sold.  

Habitat for Humanity bought the Four Square and a former resident of the limestone cottage, Roxanne Pals, renovated it and has listed it for sale. 



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