At Stuart City Council’s August meeting, the White Pole Road Development Corporation (WPRDC) expressed interest in turning the Depot into a welcome center. Since that meeting, various organizations and entities have voiced their opinions and concerns regarding the future of the Depot.
At Monday’s meeting, the Council voted to proceed with a development agreement between the non-profit organization Project Restore and the City of Stuart. Project Restore would manage rental usage of the Depot and could eventually hire marketing, cleaning, and maintenance personnel to run the facility and promote tourism in Stuart. WPRDC would also be able to operate the aforementioned welcome center and store historical artifacts. The proposal would allocate up to $50,000 in tax increment financing per year, with a third of the funds coming back to the City as rent payments.
After the approval, Depot Committee Member Doris Bench asked the Council to leave the Depot as a public community center. Bench has been instrumental in making the Depot a useable space for the community, and does not want the building to turn into an entity solely focused on turning a profit. Local attorney and Stuart Enterprise for Economic Development representative Warren Varley followed Bench’s remarks, and hopes everyone can come to a compromise on the Depot’s future. “You don’t have to drive around rural Iowa much to see the communities that are making an effort to maintainx and improve the quality of their communities and the communities that are not. I want our community to be in that first group.”
The agreement now moves to a bond attorney for further review.