Harvester Lofts Promise Change
Directly across the Missouri River from Omaha, Council Bluffs, Iowa, grew up around the eastern
terminus of the Union Pacific Railroad, and by the mid-20th century it was the nation’s fifth
largest rail center. But in the latter half of the century, with the contraction of the rail
industry, the community experienced a corresponding decline.
In 2006, seeking to revitalize
downtown Council Bluffs, the Iowa West Foundation invited Artspace to explore the feasibility of
transforming an old International Harvester warehouse into an affordable live/work project for
artists. The foundation’s executive director, J. Todd Graham, was familiar with Artspace and our
work from his days as head of Seattle’s South Downtown Foundation when the Tashiro Kaplan Artists
Lofts were in development.
Although Artspace looked at other buildings, the prime candidate
from the start was the International Harvester warehouse, one of two matching warehouses at the
south end of the downtown business district. Built in 1893 for a farm implement company, it is a
fourstory Romanesque Revival structure with about 48,000 square feet in the main building and an
additional 25,000 square feet in a spacious one-story addition that dates from 1928.
sturdy brick edifice will find new life as the Harvester Artist Lofts, a 36-unit live/work project
that will also provide 5,800 square feet of space for working studios and arts-friendly commercial
uses. Construction began earlier this month.
When completed in late 2009, the Harvester
will serve as a welcome alternative to the area’s artists, many of whom have moved out of downtown
Omaha’s Old Market area because they can no longer afford to rent space there. It will be
Artspace’s first live/work project in Iowa and the 19th to join our ever-growing
The project will have two efficiencies, 11 units with one bedroom, 18 with two,
and five with three, all affordable to households earning less than 60% of the Area Median Income –
$67,100 for a family of four in metropolitan Omaha. The project will also have 54 enclosed parking
spaces, a playground/picnic area, a community room, and a community garden.