Daycare blocked by Historic designation, Dubuque looks to remove designation

An aerial view of Dubuque.
An aerial view of Dubuque.
Published: Nov. 18, 2022 at 11:44 AM CST
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - After Dubuque’s Historic Preservation Commission blocked plans for a daycare that would require tearing down a former Knights of Columbus building, Dubuque’s City Manager is looking to remove the area from the downtown historic conservation district.

At Monday’s meeting, Dubuque’s City Council will consider removing the 700 block of Locust Street from a conservation district, specifically to allow the demolition of 781 Locust Street. That site is currently home to the Joliet Event Center inside a former Knights of Columbus Building.

Cottingham Butler wants to buy and tear down the building in order to build a new daycare center to help serve its employees. In August, it told the city’s Historic Preservation Commission the current building is simply too old and outdated to be converted into a daycare as it stands.

The commission unanimously voted to deny the request to tear down the building, pointing to a 2006 report indicating more research is needed to determine the building’s historical significance. Besides its history with the Knights of Columbus, the building also once housed the Rider-Willis Department Store.

However, City Manager Mike Van Milligen argues that historical significance is questionable and ultimately outweighed by the need in the community for daycare and to support a large employer. In a memo to the city council, Van Milligen also notes the Dubuque Museum of Art plans to take over other buildings on the block to create a museum campus. He says removing the block from a historic district designation will clear the way for both projects.

Van Milligen also praised Cottingham & Butler’s efforts to preserve Dubuque history in other ways.

“Cottingham & Butler is a tremendous corporate citizen and major supporter of historic preservation as they have done three massive historic preservation projects in downtown Dubuque at the Security Building (800 Main Street), the Town Clock Building (823-25 Main Street) and the Roshek Building (700 Locust Street),” Van Milligen writes.

Map of Dubuque Downtown Conservation District.
Map of Dubuque Downtown Conservation District.(City of Dubuque)