East Bank Depot planned for downtown rail yard area

Oct. 1, 2018

A mix of retail space, offices and lofts will be created on the site of the current Howe Investment Co. building.

East Bank Depot will be a two-story repurposed freight warehouse at 424 E. Eighth St. in the area of the rail yard redevelopment.

“We wanted to have a name that hopefully people will recognize over time,” owner Larry Howe said, comparing it to the nearby 8th & Railroad Center property.

“Like a lot of buildings, we’d like it to be multipurpose.”

Howe, who also owns plumbing, heating and cooling business Howe Inc., bought the building in the early 1980s from Chicago & North Western Railway, which became a tenant.

“They rented it back from us to use the second floor for their train crews, but the balance of the building was in pretty rough shape,” Howe said.

“In about 2001, we started renting to Burlington Northern Railroad and they’ve been there ever since.”

BNSF Railway’s lease goes through March 2019, after which the office might relocate to space near Howe’s plumbing business on Third Street near Weber Avenue.

“We knew it was time to repurpose the building,” Howe said. “It needs a new roof in certain areas and just needs to be renovated. It’s about 100 years old, and with everything happening on the East Bank, we think it’s time to do it.”

The renovated space will include 6,000 square feet of retail and offices along the lower level, with room for up to six businesses. There will be two 1,400-square-foot lofts above with elevated patios.

Rendering by Co-Op Architecture

Co-Op Architecture is managing the planning and design of the property. Mark Vellinga of JMV Consulting is the real estate broker.

“The East Bank Depot will be designed and developed to appeal to a variety of retail outlets, food and beverage, shoppers, entertainment seekers and residents,” he said. “The redevelopment of this property pays tribute to its history and location and will provide the tenants and public convenient access to the falls, the river walk, bike paths, parks, the Levitt, entertainment, shopping and restaurants.”

Rendering by Co-Op Architecture

Parking will be added to the north, with garages for loft tenants, and a thruway on the west side will serve as space for outdoor events and entertainment.

“We own the building Monks is in as well, so I’d like to do something like 8th & Railroad between the two buildings so on a Friday or Saturday night there could be activities down there,” Howe said.

“I’ve also been working with Jeff Scherschligt from Cherapa Place about our shared vision and what we’d like to go down in that area, and they need more parking as well, so I think this will be good for both of us.”

Rendering by Co-Op Architecture

The plan is to open up some land Howe owns between Sixth and Eighth streets for more parking as well as access for tenants. That includes demolishing a vacant building on the property that used to be a fabrication shop.

While he doesn’t need any of the city-owned former rail yard property for his project, Howe said he eventually would be interested in some land to the east.

His plan is to start construction in the spring.

It’s the latest in a series of downtown redevelopment investments for him, dating back to 2005 when he pioneered some of the first downtown lofts on Phillips Avenue across from the State Theatre. Howe Inc. also is located downtown at 712 E. Third St.

“I worked in the downtown area all my life, and it’s just exciting to see what’s happening on Eighth Street now,” Howe said.

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East Bank Depot planned for downtown rail yard area

A mix of retail space, offices and lofts will be created on the site of the current Howe Investment Co. building.

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