The transformation of a former Dubuque elementary school is nearly complete, and dozens of affordable apartments are poised to open in a matter of months.

Crews have spent nearly a year converting the property at 180 W. 15th St. — once St. Patrick’s Catholic Elementary School — into a 36-unit apartment complex. Construction should be completed in September, and residents can move into the facility in early October.

Officials from Full Circle Communities, the nonprofit overseeing the project, said these units are geared toward veterans and those with disabilities.

“In speaking with local service providers, city staff and elected officials, we learned that there were a lot of housing needs for those two groups,” said Jordan Bartle, project manager for Full Circle Communities.

Four of the 36 units will be leased at market rate, and the others are designated for multiple tiers of low-income tenants.

“I think these units will address needs not just for the lowest-income, but for a variety of residents who need affordable housing,” said Corina Pitsenbarger, vice president for Full Circle Management, the property management arm of Full Circle Communities.

The property most recently was occupied by Four Oaks, a social services agency that serves more than 1,000 children and families in the Dubuque area.

Full Circles Communities purchased the building for $535,000 in 2018, and work on the $6.3 million project started in September.

“Since then, we have essentially gutted the interior of the building,” Bartle said. “We’ve kept only the floors and staircases.”

Crews have replaced the roof, installed new electrical and plumbing work, replaced multiple windows and installed new ones. Contractors also are removing any asbestos within the facility.

The installation of an elevator will create an accessible environment for the building’s eventual tenants, Bartle added.

The project represented the first “adaptive reuse” effort overseen by Full Circle. In the past, all projects involved revamping buildings that previously housed apartments or building new structures.

Converting a former school building came with some challenges.

For instance, workers built a new floor in a portion of the structure that formerly housed a two-story, open gym, allowing Full Circle to utilize that space for apartments.

Randy Rennison, executive director of Dubuque County Veterans Affairs, believes the new housing units will make a positive impact.

“We are lucky not to have a big homeless veterans population, like you see in some other metro areas,” he said. “But we do have some veterans who have fallen through the cracks. This will get them back on their feet and provide them with a better living situation.”

In addition to a physical space, Full Circle Communities will provide programming to its tenants. This will include everything from case management to social activities, Bartle said.

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