The final phase of the Steeple Square project in Dubuque has been completed, and officials look forward to using the renovated space to serve the community.
The lower level of the former St. Mary’s Catholic Parish property at the corner of White and East 15th streets now is home to a new multi-use community center and culinary kitchen.
While the new spaces have been open for use for about a month, the official open house and ribbon cutting for the project will take place at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 30.
“This expansion is the last leg of a pretty incredible journey for Steeple Square,” said John Schmidt, Steeple Square board president. “And now, we will fulfill our outreach that we’ve really been focused on as we transition from rebuilding buildings to rebuilding the community.”
The final phase of the Steeple Square project began this spring, according to Judy Wolf, board treasurer and president of the Marita Theisen Childcare Center.
The lower-level project cost about $1.2 million, Wolf said, but it was part of an ongoing $15 million project funded through a combination of grants, donations and state and historic tax credits.
The first phase of the project, creating 12 affordable-housing units, was completed in 2017, followed in 2018 by the refurbishing of the steeple. The child care center opened in 2019.
This past year, the Steeple Square Community Event Center and Honkamp Hall also opened on the floor above the newly completed center and culinary kitchen.
Through a partnership with Northeast Iowa Community College and Four Mounds, Wolf said the kitchen is being used for culinary arts classes. Students register for the classes through NICC but don’t have to be current students, she said.
Participants in the program have the opportunity to receive free tuition and free child care at the Marita Theisen center when classes are occurring, Wolf said.
“The idea is to remove the barriers of transportation and access to education and to be able to provide that in a secure setting,” she said.
Wolf also noted that the culinary kitchen is named for Sister Helen Huewe, a founding Steeple Square board member and community leader who died last year.
“She was involved from the outset for the vision of transforming St. Mary’s into its current state,” Wolf said. “… Really, part of her personal vision was to be able to provide a culinary space.”
The multi-use Sisters of Charity BVM Community Center is now open on the lower floor of the property. Wolf said the center can be rented for events, but it also will be the site of future vocational training on the property.
In addition to the culinary kitchen, individuals can earn a child care certificate at Steeple Square property. Future certificate programs being considered include hospitality, customer service and carpentry, Wolf said.
“We have the opportunity to utilize our resources to serve a core group of people who need help kick-starting or advancing their career,” she said.