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Northwood’s lumber-themed event center readies for use

By Ashley Stewart, Globe Gazette

The multi-year transformation of a former lumberyard into a community events center in downtown Northwood is nearly complete.

The Timbers – Northwood’s Event Center at 512 Central Ave. hosted its first event, a dance recital, on Sunday.

“Thank you to the community, (Worth County Development Authority) and the city for all their support and all the major donations,” said Amber Julseth, Northwood city administrator/city clerk, who is on the committee that oversees The Timbers’ operations. “We’re anxious to open just as much as they are.”

The 7,000-square-foot multipurpose events center features a loft connected by a curved walking bridge, a caterer’s kitchen, a bar, four restrooms and a dance floor designed using reclaimed wood and galvanized steel from the original 1902 lumber storage building.

It also has a marble gray epoxy floor, a “state-of-the-art” sound system and rustic lighting, including two unique locally made chandeliers.

The Timbers, a climate-controlled venue, can accommodate between 350 and 400 people.

“It’s one of a kind,” said Pam Meyer, who is on The Timbers Committee and TUNE Board.

Local contractors Scott Madsen and Brian Kenison, both of Northwood, purchased the property, formerly home to Northwood Lumber, for $51,000 in 2016 after the lumberyard closed, according to Worth County property records, with plans to demolish it.

But when they realized it was in too good of shape to tear down, they approached Total United Northwood Effort, a nonprofit commonly known as TUNE, to undertake the renovation project.

“Northwood had a need,” said Wendy Weisert, TUNE vice president.

Northwood, a city with about 2,000 people, didn’t have a community or large gathering space like others.

Some communities have repurposed their old school gymnasiums for such space, but Julseth said Northwood is fortunate to still have the school district located in its community.

“Northwood has never had that space, beside the church basement being the largest gathering spot,” she said.

In 2019, the deed for the property was officially transferred to TUNE, and the organization began its fundraising efforts for the project.

Madsen and Kenison, among others, started the renovation of the building in the fall of 2019, and progress on the project depended on funding.

At that time, the project, including the purchase of the building and the renovation, was estimated to cost $1.2 million.

TUNE has received nearly $850,000 from the Worth County Development Authority and $150,000 in donations from individuals, businesses and other foundations, Weisert said, noting that the organization is still raising money for the project.

“We’ve been fortunate,” she said.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic — not funding — has been the biggest setback for The Timbers’ opening, members of the TUNE Board said Thursday morning.

At least three events in November and a wedding reception in December were canceled or postponed due to the pandemic and its subsequent restrictions on gatherings aimed at reducing the spread of the coronavirus.

“We would’ve been ready to go but COVID changed our plans and the renters’ plans, too,” Weisert said. “It changed everybody’s plans.”

The Timbers hosted a dance recital Sunday, an open house on Saturday, Feb. 13, and a wedding expo with Fringe and Lace by Brittany on Sunday, March 14, barring additional COVID-19 restrictions.

There are also 15 wedding receptions and seven other events, including graduation parties and a prom, scheduled at the venue in 2021 and 2022, Weisert said, adding TUNE hasn’t advertised it. Its first wedding reception is April 24.

A Facebook post on Monday, she said, prompted more than 20 additional requests for information.

“It’s been a community project to pull it all together,” Julseth said.

She said the committee hopes to add a courtyard or outdoor patio area at The Timbers in the future to accommodate outdoor events and wedding ceremonies. 

The Timbers’ operations are overseen by a committee of four women, including Weisert, Julseth, Meyer and Teresa Olson, who are also members of TUNE.

The mission of TUNE is to promote and improve the betterment of the community of Northwood.

TUNE was established in 1973 as part of the State of Iowa Community Betterment Program to coordinate the ideas, actions and talents of the people of Northwood’s various service organizations and groups. It disbanded in the 1980s.

In 2003, TUNE was reorganized and it achieved nonprofit status.

TUNE, which has a 15-member board comprising individuals from the school, city and various civic organizations, is focused on the development and revitalization of downtown, the promotion of Northwood and fundraising to achieve those goals.

Fundraisers, like trivia night, wine tastings and others, for its projects were sparse in 2020 due to COVID-19, but TUNE is hoping to host an open house and wine tasting this winter to reboot its efforts.

TUNE owns and operates the Northwood Theatre and is responsible for the installation of the welcome signs at the city’s four entrances.

After it’s done with the events center, it is looking to turn the second-story of the theater into apartments, which are needed in Northwood.

“This project has to be completed first before we can move to that project,” she said. “That’s on the agenda.”

Donations to TUNE for The Timbers – Northwood’s Event Center, can be mailed to TUNE c/o Pam Meyer, 4525 Thrush Ave., Northwood, IA 50459.

For more information about TUNE or The Timbers, call Wendy Weisert at 641-390-0644, email her at mwbrjw@msn.com or visit their respective Facebook pages.