For more than 100 years, St. Mary’s parish anchored Dubuque’s downtown and served as a cornerstone for working class citizens. It was a gateway for newcomers to Dubuque, a hub for downtown neighborhoods, and a source of community pride.
As Dubuque experienced upheavals of the farm crisis and factory closings in the early 1980’s, the neighborhoods surrounding the former St. Mary’s sunk into steady economic decline. Jobs and residents left the area, and St. Mary’s ultimately closed its doors in 2010.
After the campus was threatened with demolition in 2010, community leaders united with an aim to both save and repurpose the site.
In 2016, Steeple Square launched a campus revitalization to repurpose the buildings and grounds into a collaborative, inclusive center providing a hub for community support, while preserving its historic fabric. The campus is serving as an agent for positive change and a catalyst for restoring lives.
Gronen led the restoration of the towering 208 ft steeple – an icon on Dubuque’s skyline since 1867. The steeple was restored in copper to ensure it will last another 100 years.
When German immigrants constructed what was to become St. Mary's campus over 150 years ago, the steeple was not only a religious symbol, but also a symbol of triumph over adversity. These people had been persecuted in their homelands for who they were and the faith they practiced. Escaping for a better life in the United States where they could have the freedom to live their lives without persecution was a welcome change. As they established new lives in Dubuque, the construction of St. Mary's church, with its towering steeple, was an opportunity to create a visible symbol of thanksgiving as an offering to God for bringing them a better life. It was also a symbolic "planting of the flag" on their piece of the new world – a signal of triumph over the trials and tribulations that they experienced on a path to a better life. The steeple was both a nod to their past and a beacon of hope looking to the future.
Today, the steeple is the most deteriorated part of the community event center. Restoration of the steeple at Steeple Square will begin in March 2018 and will be a visible symbol of investment in Dubuque’s Washington and North End neighborhoods. The revitalization of Steeple Square continues to serve as a beacon of hope and a welcome home for all Dubuque community members.
Completion Date: In Progress
Size: 1 City Block
Location: Dubuque, IA
Type of Project: Commercial, Office, Event Center, Residential
Gronen Responsibility: Project Manager, Contractor
Total Development Cost: $12-15 Million