About 100 people flooded into the archway beneath Dupaco Community Credit Union’s future operations center in Dubuque, exploring a space that hadn’t seen visitors in years.
The space had been blocked from public view by concrete block walls. But on Thursday, visitors walked through an archway filled with pictures of the building’s past, present and future.
“It’s exciting — a sneak peek of good things to come,” said Dupaco President and CEO Joe Hearn.
Company officials hosted the archway opening in the midst of a $37.5 million renovation to transform the building at 1000 Jackson St., marking the public’s only opportunity to pass through the corridor until construction is finished.
“It’s good to see a local company incorporate the space we have down here to use for people in our community,” said Doug Bausch, who came to see the Dupaco Voices Building and the vision officials have for its future.
During the event, Dupaco leaders paid homage to the building’s place in history as both a manufacturing and arts hub in the Millwork District.
The structure for years was used to manufacture windows, doors and cabinetry, and it later played host to the Voices from the Warehouse District arts festival through 2015.
Hearn touted to attendees the people who started the Voices festival and members of the community who envisioned a bright future for the Millwork District when it was filled with vacant buildings.
“We are a testament to the transformative power of art and community,” Hearn said.
Work to revitalize the building is “well underway,” Hearn said, and credit union officials hope to move into the structure in the fall of 2020. Dupaco staff will occupy the third through fifth floors, but the ground floor space around the archway will be available for tenants to lease.
“It’s energizing and exciting for our members, our employees and our community, and it’s what we really strive for, to make a positive difference in the lives of the community we serve,” Hearn said.
To open up the archway, crews deconstructed the artwork known as the “Pink Lady” that had been painted onto the wall covering the arch on East 10th Street. The majority of the mural was painted on a garage door, which workers preserved so it can be displayed in the future, Hearn said.
Anna Zor, who works under the name ZorZorZor, painted the Pink Lady in 2015 during a Voices from the Warehouse District event.
She attended Thursday’s event. She said she felt honored to have become part of the Dubuque community through her artwork. She said she wants to make sure the remaining portion of her mural stays in the city because of how it resonated with people.
“It just feels really special, and it’s really a big deal for Dupaco to take on this project,” she said.
Gene Tully, president of Voices Productions and a co-founder of Voices from the Warehouse District, said Dupaco made a serious investment into the community by moving into the Voices building.
“It really kind of finishes off the (Millwork) District,” he said. “It was the last big building to go.”
As Bausch made his way through the archway, he noted that the plans for the building seem to incorporate the structure’s historic nature while also modernizing it.
“It just folds into the architecture and what this Millwork District is,” he said.
Erica Johnson, who also stopped by to check out the archway, said she feels the project is a good thing for both Dupaco and the community.
“I like that they’re doing good things in Dubuque and staying in Dubuque,” she said.