Iowa bank expands, preserves historic structure of community

A house in the Sherman Hill neighborhood of Des Moines.

In Des Moines, Iowa, three 100-year-old houses traveled through the cleared-off streets of the city’s Drake neighborhood in October, pulled slowly by semi-trucks. Pilot cars escorted the procession, flashing lights to warn oncoming traffic. 

Instead of demolishing the houses, Lincoln Savings Bank, Reinbeck, Iowa, coordinated the financing of the complex project to preserve the buildings, albeit in a new neighborhood. Their original location will be used for the Harkin Institute of Public Policy and Citizen Engagement. 

Not surprisingly, a move like this was difficult, requiring logistical and financial coordination. LSB, however, was excited to help. 

“I get sick to my stomach when I see old historic structures get bulldozed and lost forever,” said Mike Urquhart, lead commercial lender for the project. 

This atypical loan had two phases: one that financed the acquisition, the new lots and their foundations, and the second that will finance the interior and exterior restoration. 

The buildings arrived in their new neck of the woods and were met by their newly prepared foundations with electrical grids, mechanicals and an open floor plan. 

The homes, which were converted to multi-apartment structures, will be converted back and sold as single-family residences, having the character of a historic home without the issues present with older houses. Each house will be restored to reveal their true and original architectural details while accommodating what buyers want in a modern home.

“I am very passionate about saving our architectural history, so I enjoyed working on this project,” Urquhart said. “The re-use, re-sale of these homes shows that there is a definite market for older homes to be lived in again.”

The $1 billion bank also announced in October its pending purchase of the top three floors of the John Deere Tractor Company building in Waterloo, Iowa, which was built in 1928.

  The space is making the transition from being a heavy industrial site to an economic engine for the downtown community, where 150 Lincoln Savings Bank staff will find their new professional home. The bank expects to add up to 100 more employees in the next five years.

“Our significant growth over the past few years has made it necessary for us to find a space that will accommodate us well into the future,” said Erik Skovgard, president and CEO at LSB. 

The bank’s recent success comes in the wake of the 2014 opening of LSBX, a new business line that records LSB as a “bank of record” for FinTech companies, which added more than 2 million customers across the United States.

The Iowa bank also purchased a loan servicing partner in 2017 that specializes in SBA and USDA government guaranteed loan programs.The growth for the traditional bank resulted in 30 percent staff growth over the past five years.

“The building is ideal for our needs because it’s centrally located for our staff that live in Waterloo and surrounding communities,” Skovgard said. “It’s exciting to be part of the rich history of John Deere and play a part in the revitalization that’s happening.”