Cindy Hadish/Homegrown Iowan
BLAIRSTOWN – Loren Dostal remembers the one that got away.
The solid, two-story farmhouse was demolished to make way for a road-widening project in east-central Iowa.
“It was a really nice, square house in really nice shape,” said Dostal, of Dostal Construction and Excavating in Toledo, noting that power lines in its path would have raised the cost of moving the building.
He fared better in having a ranch-style home moved out of the way of road construction and is intent on seeing another house relocated that stands in the path of the Highway 30 widening project near Blairstown and Van Horne, west of Cedar Rapids.
“That’s what I’m trying to do,” Dostal said about the environmental reasons behind the “free house” sign he posted next to the building. “It saves it from going to the landfill.”
Dostal won the bid for the project and is responsible for having the home and barns removed before the Iowa Department of Transportation begins work on widening Highway 30 to four lanes in the 15-mile stretch of Benton County.
While that might mean demolition for many contractors, Dostal said giving away the house for free saves landfill space and the cost of demolition.
Since posting the sign with his phone number this summer, Dostal has received “a ton” of calls about the white, 1 1/2-story home on the south side of Highway 30.
“It’s a nice little house,” he said, estimating it was built in the 1950s.
One of his first callers planned to purchase a lot in Van Horne, not far from where the house is located.
When those plans fell through, however, the out-of-state resident became discouraged and gave up on moving the building, Dostal said.
Since then, he has taken hundreds of calls. Some mistakenly think the land comes with the house; it does not. Others are unfamiliar with the logistics and costs involved to have a building moved.
Among those would-be house-movers, one person wanted to relocate the home to Galena, Ill., a distance of almost 120 miles.
“She could have built the house three times over” for the cost of such a long-distance trek, Dostal said.
He noted that ideally, the house would be moved less than 20 miles from its location, about the distance to Cedar Rapids.
While the house will be given to the right person for free, costs of the move are the responsibility of the new owner.
The $54 million road construction project will widen Highway 30 to four lanes, roughly between Highway 21 to U.S. 218; around the Belle Plaine turnoff to the Blairstown area.
Doug McDonald, District 6 Construction Engineer for the DOT, said because the final design on adding the two lanes is just starting, the number of parcels needed to be purchased is unknown.
The DOT is not actively acquiring land at this time, but some homeowners, like the one near Blairstown, have approached the department for an early buy-out, he said.
Buy-outs will likely be pursued next spring for properties within a 200-foot range on the south side of the highway, where the construction will occur.
“Most houses along Highway 30 are probably in that range,” McDonald said, so those south-side homes and barns will eventually disappear.
Construction is expected to begin in 2016, with a 2020 completion date.
Dostal said the corn crib and other structures on the property near Blairstown also will likely be given away, but in pieces, as callers have asked about saving the boards.
That holds true for the concrete, which farmers use as riprap to protect creek banks from erosion.
“That usually goes pretty quick, especially with the wet spring we had,” he said.
Dostal noted that the house will probably need to be moved by November. Although grading for the road will not begin immediately, he said the DOT would prefer not to leave vacant homes sitting too long for liability reasons.
“It’s kind of getting down to the wire here,” he said.
This article also appeared in the Corridor Business Journal.