Ho-Chunk Capital’s purchases include the landmark building that housed Aalfs Manufacturing’s corporate offices for much of the 20th century. Built in 1890, the five-story brick-and-stone structure at 1005 Fourth St. has also been known as the Boston Block.
The other buildings acquired house a mix of tenants that include bars, offices, shops and restaurants. Collectively, the structures have 78,527 square feet of floor space, according to a Ho-Chunk press release.
In a public announcement of the purchase late Friday morning, Dennis Johnson, chief investment officer of Ho-Chunk Capital, said that Ho-Chunk plans to do some rehabilitation of the buildings while maintaining their historical integrity. Ho-Chunk officials said they hope the current tenants will stay.
“These will be mixed-use buildings. So, we’ll have a continuation of residential on the upper two or three stories, depending on the building, and cool restaurant options — there’s already several existing, so we hope to retain all of those, and add a couple in a couple of the vacant positions that are down here,” Johnson said.
The Sioux City Journal reports that the Aalfs family approached Ho-Chunk about a sale, Johnson said. Lance Morgan, CEO of Ho-Chunk Inc., said that negotiations with Jack Aalfs began in earnest around a year ago, though Ho-Chunk officials had been eyeing the properties as early as five years ago.
Renovations will take place in “phases,” Johnson said. They plan to rehab one building at a time, starting later this year and wrapping up within three or four years. Morgan pointed to Ho-Chunk’s reputation for maintaining its properties in as pristine a condition as possible: “If you know anything about us, everything we do, we try to do it right, and we try to do it first-class.”
“Sometimes, you know, people think about the tribes, they think about the poverty. We struggle with those issues, still, but our goal is to change the image, and the mindset, of how people view what we do,” he added.
The renovations will be vertically integrated through Ho-Chunk. Design work for the renovations will be conducted by BluStone, an architectural design company and a Ho-Chunk subsidiary. HCI Construction, another Ho-Chunk subsidiary, will do the construction work in collaboration with BluStone.
Besides the old Aalfs building, the other properties included in the transaction are:
— 1019-24 Fourth St., a brick structure built between 1890 and 1897 that was once the site of John Stevenson’s Saloon. It now houses M’s on Fourth;
— 1016-24 Fourth St., the Lee Block, a long brick structure built in 1910 or 1911, that’s home to SoHo Kitchen and Bar, Buffalo Alice, Antiques on Fourth and Beth’s Flowers.
— 1010-12 Fourth St. a multi-story brick-and-stonework building dating to 1885 known as the Major Block. Other sources have indicated that design work on the building didn’t begin until 1889. The building is home to Major’s Sportsbar.
— 1014 Fourth St., a brick building dating to 1900.
(County property records and a Ho-Chunk press release seem to indicate that 1014 Fourth St. is technically an independent property; however, the address 1014 is on the western end of the Lee Block, and Johnson said the properties are essentially one in the same.)
The purchase also included some surface parking spaces.
The deal closed Friday. Johnson declined to say how much was paid for the properties.
“That’ll become public record in the near future,” he said.
Morgan said that Ho-Chunk, which is headquartered in Winnebago, Nebraska, has “bet big on Sioux City” in recent years, between their ownership of the 10-story, glass-clad Ho-Chunk Centre, the Virginia Square development on Virginia Street, some properties on Pearl Street and now a large chunk of Fourth Street.
“We probably used to own it anyway,” joked Morgan, prompting laughter from the crowd. “I just can’t help it.”
Aalfs Manufacturing, a large textile manufacturer that was one of the oldest family-owned businesses in Sioux City, was sold in in 2018 to Grupo Siete Leguas, a family-owned jean and denim producer headquartered in the Mexican state of Durango. Until Friday’s sale, the Aalfs family maintained ownership of the old headquarters and the neighboring buildings.
The Aalfs family was a central figure in helping revitalize a two-block area, long known as “Lower Fourth” into what is today’s Historic Fourth District.
“We are grateful we had the privilege to participate in its transformation to ‘Historic Fourth’” Jack Aalfs said in a statement provided by Ho-Chunk. “The decision to sell our properties was not an easy one, so it was important to us to find a buyer that shared our commitment to Sioux City and its history. We believe that Ho-Chunk Capital has demonstrated that commitment, and we are excited for the future of Historic Fourth in their hands.”
In 1984, Aalfs completed a major restoration of the Boston Block that exposed the iron columns and the glass window frames which for years had been hidden beneath a modern brick wall. Today, the building looks much as it did the day it was built.
Designed by local architect Edward W. Loft in the popular Richardsonian Romanesque architectural style, the Boston Block was one of four warehouse-like structures that were built by the Boston Investment Company at the turn of the century.
The Major Block, meanwhile, was briefly the home of Northwestern College, which later became Morningside College, as well as the school’s College of Law. In later years it housed the Ochsner & Orcutt hardware store. Its upper floors provided lodging that went by various names, including the Acme, Victory and Major Hotel.
“What a beautiful building, beautiful façade, again very historic attributes to that,” Johnson said of the Major Block.
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