MASON CITY — The groundbreaking was held this morning for a $16 million downtown Mason City housing development. Talon Development LLC of Sioux Falls is constructing the development that will include 113 apartments and 20 town houses on the site that used to be the overflow parking lot south of Southbridge Mall. The project is seen by city leaders as one of the first spinoffs of the River City Renaissance project.Talon president Steve Boote says with the work involving the River City Renaissance project, they wanted to place this development in a downtown location. “It was clear that Mason City is on the right track. The Renaissance project was gaining steam. We wanted to be downtown. I think when the corridor and the city was driving us around, we were looking at outskirts, we’re looking at farm fields, we’re looking at all the classic places to build an apartment. We started to drive around this part of downtown, and I said this is where we want to be.”The land on where the complex will go has been classified as an “Opportunity Zone”, which Boote says was perfect for this project. “Most people probably don’t even know what the Opportunity Zone is, but it’s really a key element of the Trump tax cuts. What it does is it offers some incentives for people that have capital gains to invest in blighted areas, areas in communities that that are underserved, and it just so happens that this part of downtown is one of the Opportunity Zones. So fast forward today, a year later, we are forming the first qualified Opportunity Zones in Mason City, and one of the first few in Iowa.”North Iowa Corridor Economic Development Corporation president Chad Schreck says this project helps address the need for affordable mid-range housing in the community. “Looking back at the old records, it’s been over 20 years probably since the last major developments happened in that area. As we were doing out strategic planning initiative, we were going through interviews and surveys of our community, our businesses, over and over again the housing issue, rental issue came up. As we’re bringing in teachers, bringing in nurses, we’re brining in young professionals that can’t afford a house right off the bat, they have had a hard time finding that market rate, high-quality, newer, modern place to live, and we just haven’t been able to get that and lost people because of it.”Boote and Schreck made their comments on the “Ask the Mayor” program earlier today on AM-1300 KGLO. Listen back to the program by clicking on the audio player below.