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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.
INDUSTRIAL PARKS. Sites designated for industrial expansion were suggested as early as 1892 by the president of the BOARD OF TRADE. In July of that year, the organization's president suggested the creation of a syndicate to purchase two hundred acres north of the city. This land would then be sold to manufacturers. This had been done successfully in Clinton and other cities. He believed a suburb of several thousand residents could be created in a few years. (1)
Dubuque's first industrial park was opened in 1955 using $2.0 dollars raised by a referendum with the city paying $100,000 annually plus interest until 1975 when the bonds were retired. (2) With an estimated four million cubic yards of fill, LAKE PEOSTA was filled with dirt and sand. Packed down and leveled, the former mosquito-infested slough used by criminals and moonshiners was converted into a 500-acre tract stretching from 16thh Street to Hawthorne St. on both sides of Kerper Blvd. (3) became the home for as many as twenty-one industries and 1,308 jobs. Assessed in 1983 at over fifteen million dollars, the area accounted for $563,000 in local property taxes.
The person credited with initiating the Park was John A. Kerper, then a twenty-eight-year member of the Dubuque Dock Board. Kerper proposed the city buy a dredge to fill the swamp near the river. At a ceremony beginning the project, Kerper threw the switch that started the dredge-pumping fill from the MISSISSIPPI RIVER into Lake Peosta. Although Kerper died before completion of the Park, his contributions were remembered in the naming of Kerper Blvd., the four-lane road in the area.
Plans for the industrial use of the area date back to 1850 when proposals were made to extend LAKE PEOSTA, the "western slough," into a canal. If the propositions had proven possible, steamboats would have been able to nearly reach downtown Dubuque. The city gradually bought land from Henry L. STOUT who realized his dream of farmland in the region was doomed because of the sandy unproductive soil. An urgency to develop the area came after WORLD WAR II when large industries nationwide expanded by constructing branch operations in small towns.
In December 1965 a four-hour development seminar on "What Does the Next Half Decade Hold for Dubuque" was sponsored by the DUBUQUE INDUSTRIAL BUREAU. Attendees from business and government agreed that more effort had to be made informing Dubuque residents on what had been done in industrial development and expansion. In 1965 Dubuque businesses added 800 new employees and spent $40 million in expansion. Despite this Mayor Robert J. HORGAN replied:
The majority of the citizens believe the Industrial Park is not paying off. Joe Citizen is not aware of the progress of the Dubuque Industrial Bureau, the Dubuque Industrial Development Corporation and others in making jobs. (4)
In 1966 at the annual meeting of the Dubuque Industrial Bureau, the acknowledgement was made that Dubuque seriously lacked land suitable for new industry. Only 65 acres of Area B of the industrial park remained at a time when Dubuque led the state in plant expansion. Sinclair Oil Company, already in the community, wanted to expand but needed 600 acres that were not available. (5)
By 1970, twenty-nine plants were located in the park providing jobs for 984 people. The same year, the Dubuque Industrial Bureau reported that taxes, rentals and wharfage fees from the park totaled nearly $340,000--more than three times the annual payment of the bonds sold to create the site. More than 75.5 acres had been sold leaving 30 acres for sale. (6)
In 1995 an outside analyst was hired to examine the Dubuque County Metropolitan Statistical Area. The recommendation of the analyst was to develop industrial property because without it there was no need for a development group. Three primary criteria guided the selection of new sites. First was the proximity of the land to Dubuque so that utilities were accessible and affordable. Second was the identification of a willing seller since the city had never used imminent domain to obtain land. Third was a determination that the site would make a good industrial park given the landscape rock formation, and subsoil of the area. (7)
The City of Dubuque grew by nearly 600 acres on the evening of February 3, 1997. On that evening, the city council approved the annexation requests of Mason City, Iowa developer Wendell Corey for his Asbury Plaza development near the NORTHWEST ARTERIAL and Asbury Road. The council also approved the annexation of three parcels destined for development as INDUSTRIAL PARKS. These included 122 acres at Lake Eleanor Road and US 61/151, 210-acre Dubuque County Farm on Seippel Road, and 155 acres near Old Highway Road and Middle Road. (8)
DUBUQUE INDUSTRIAL CENTER was the first park developed with the first building constructed in 2001. Construction of the DUBUQUE INDUSTRIAL CENTER SOUTH and DUBUQUE INDUSTRIAL CENTER WEST followed. (9)
Twelve potential sites for a second industrial park were eventually reduced to three. (10) The location along Radford Road offered a nearby railroad spur, isolation of residential areas, and proximity to the Northwest Arterial. In 1980 the City purchased the 191-acre location, with one hundred acres usable, for $941,000. Grading solved the problem of the hilly terrain. The purposes of the Park were to provide locations for businesses forced to relocate because of the US 61 project, new businesses, and local businesses that wanted to expand.
The five million dollar 236-acre industrial center, owned by DUBUQUE IN-FUTURO, sold its first two lots to the A.Y.MCDONALD MANUFACTURING COMPANY and FROMMELT INDUSTRIES INC. Construction of the Frommelt Industries building began in 1983.
Land acquisition continued. In May 1997 the city stood poised to purchase 151 acres of ground east of the former Dubuque County Farm. With the acquisition of this land, the city purchased 870 acres of land in the first six months of the year. The city also had fifty acres available at its industrial park between Radford Road and the Northwest Arterial, fifty acres near the DUBUQUE REGIONAL AIRPORT, and twenty-five acres along Kerper Blvd. The city's comprehensive plan called for the acquisition of seven hundred acres over the next twenty years. (11)
The City Council in April 2015 purchased 166 acres of farmland off Seippel Road for $2 million. This was the first major investment in land for industrial development since the 1990s. (12)
In July 2015 the City Council agreed to spend $2.12 million for 125 acres of land near the intersection of Middle and Radford road. The land purchased as $17,000 per acre came from the McFadden Family Partnership. (13)
In September, 2021 the city staff proposed purchasing 156 acres of property located northwest of the Southwest Arterial and U. S. 61 intersection. The $4.2 million property would become the city's first land development along the Southwest Arterial corridor. At the time of the purchase, the city owned an estimated 425 acres for industrial development. Based on previous industrial development needs assessments, the city planned to expand the 425 acres to 900 acres. (14)
In January 2023 it was announced that the City of Dubuque owned about 700 parcels of land within and outside the city limits including the city of municipal buildings, parks, commercial and industrial land, residential properties, detention basins, parking lots, floodwalls, right-of-ways, and riverfronts. The city owned 4,181 acres with 12% of all the land in the city owned by the local government.
A total of 85% of Dubuque's city-owned land was zoned commercial. The largest was the Dubuque Regional Airport, but it is not located within the city limits. The city owns the majority of commercial property along the MISSISSIPPI RIVER including most of the PORT OF DUBUQUE, DOVE HARBOR, and CHAPLAIN SCHMITT ISLAND. This was leased out to businesses resulting in the city receiving approximately $2 million annuals from lease payments. (15)
1. "Municipal Molecules," Dubuque Daily Herald, July 12, 1892, p. 4
2. "Industry," Progress Edition, Telegraph-Herald, April 5, 1970, p. 61
4. Thompson, Dave. "What's Dubuque's Future?" Telegraph-Herald, December 15, 1965, p. 14
5. "Dubuque Problem: Scarcity of Space for Industrial Expansion," Telegraph-Herald, December 15, 1966, p. 1
6. "$340,000 from 'Park," Telegraph Herald, July 20, 1970, p. 3
7. "The Development of Dubuque's Industrial Parks," bizTimes,biz, July 2017, p. 8
8. McDermott, Brad, "City Council Approves Four Annexation Requests, Telegraph Herald, February 4, 1997, p. 2
10. Kraske, Steve. "City Aims to Lure Developers to New Center," Telegraph-Herald Special Section, June 26, 1983, p. 12
11. McDermott, Brad. "City Buys Country for Development," Telegraph Herald, May 7, 1997, p. 1. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=aEyKTaVlRPYC&dat=19970507&printsec=frontpage&hl=en
12. "Dubuque Officials to Consider $2.12 Million Purchase," Telegraph Herald, July 5, 2015, p. 11A
14. Kruse, John, "City Eyes Site for Industrial Park," Telegraph Herald, September 18, 2021, p. 1A
15. Kruse, John, "Property High Priority," Telegraph Herald, Jan. 15, 2023, p. 1A