Delay in St. Joe demo raises questions, Blackbird responds

Unfinished project site on Ash Street in Ottumwa, September 2018/KTVO

A nearly four-month delay in construction and demolition at Ottumwa’s old St. Joseph Hospital continues to raise questions.

Contractors began removing pieces of the building in July. The process was put on hold shortly after. In September, city officials confirmed to KTVO a contractor dispute was the cause of the delay. At the time, Mayor Tom Lazio was expecting the situation to be resolved within the coming weeks.

Half of the brick building on North Ash Street still stands, and now developers are alluding to a legal dispute.

Des Moines-based Blackbird Investments, which has been tasked with the design and construction of the St. Joe housing project, released a statement Thursday in response to the public’s concerns:

“The partial demolition and delay of construction at the former St. Joseph Hospital site has created an eyesore and uncertainty for the citizens of Ottumwa. We want you to know we are actively working towards a contract resolution to restart the halted progress on this project. Given the legal nature of this matter, we are not able to communicate in detail as much as we believe the people of Ottumwa deserve. Please know we hear you, we are committed to Ottumwa, and we will provide the city a beautiful housing community. After we have reached a solution, we will communicate an updated timeline of progress moving forward.”

In July, Blackbird Spokesperson Rachel Wegmann told KTVO construction of a brand-new apartment complex was slated to begin this spring.

In September, Wegmann issued the following statement to one of KTVO’s reporters through email:

“We are targeted to have the first homes built and ready for the summer of 2019,” Wegmann wrote. “We appreciate you requesting this update and look forward to some more progress very soon.”

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