2012 in review: Flood recovery, development continues in Johnson County

By Pat Shaver

JOHNSON COUNTY–This year saw major development projects in Johnson County.

Several projects in the Iowa River Landing district have been completed, with more underway.

Iowa City leaders are in the process of deciding on a mixed-use high-rise development downtown, and are looking at a 20-year redesign of downtown.

Small businesses have continued to open in fast-growing North Liberty.

Downtown Iowa City

Iowa City city officials presented major redevelopment plans at an open house in October that will span over the next 20 years and focus on the city’s Riverfront Crossing District.

Plans could include an artists’ district with housing, studios, and galleries, new riverfront recreational opportunities, the potential for both regional and local rail service, and a landscaped promenade on Clinton Street that would link downtown to the new Riverfront Park.

The plan proposes neighborhoods where residents can easily walk, bike, or ride the bus to work, experience recreational activities along the Iowa River, and experience the energy of the arts, culture and entertainment scene downtown.

The Riverfront Crossings District, which is roughly bordered by Burlington Street on the north, Highway 6 on the south, Gilbert Street on the east, and Riverside Drive on the west, was impacted by the 2008 floods.

Also, Nancy Bird was hired as the new Iowa City Downtown District executive director this year.

The downtown self-supported municipal improvement district (SSMID) went into effect in October. A SSMID is considered an area of contiguous property within a city zoned for commercial or industrial uses, or a duly designated historic district.

The Downtown Association previously received about $40,000 in annual funding, most of it going toward a director and operations.

Iowa River Landing development

A new restaurant in the Iowa River Landing broke ground in late 2012. The restaurant, called 30hop, will feature an urban-industrial dining experience with a rooftop patio. The restaurant is projected to open in the summer of 2013.

30hop’s partners include: Erik Shewmaker, owner/operator of BlackStone restaurant and bar in Iowa City; Matthew Swift, owner/operator of Red’s Alehouse in North Liberty; Brian Flynn, who has ownership in local restaurants and bars (BlackStone, Joe’s Place, Donnelly’s and Vesta); and Dan Blum, former BlackStone manager who is moving back from Denver to be general manager of 30hop.

The 6,500 square-foot steel building will be able to seat about 200 people in the main level dining area, 100 more on the main level patio and an additional 120 on the rooftop.

“As people see this is really a reality, Von Maur is getting closer to getting completed, and with the Homewood Suites and the new restaurant—all of that builds momentum to the future success of other business there,” said Kelly Hayworth, Coralville city administrator in October. “It’s a great addition to Iowa River Landing, the fact that it is a locally owned business is very unique.”

Charlotte’s, a North Liberty-based deli and catering company, also plans to locate in IRL.

Von Maur will be moving its store to a new building being built in the IRL in Coralville. That will leave Sycamore Mall without one of its largest retailers. Von Maur will leave the mall with about 50,000 square feet of empty retail space in July.

The department store is opening an 80,000-square-foot store near the Coralville Marriott. The city of Coralville is providing more than $16 million in incentives to Von Maur to move, including money to pay for lease termination fees to Sycamore Mall.

There is a pending lawsuit that was filed by business owners against the city of Coralville about the Von Maur deal and other IRL development plans. The lawsuit questions the legality of the structure of the agreement between Coralville and developer Oliver McMillan, the use of economic development grants to pay for the Von Maur property and the sale price of the land to Von Maur and whether it’s an unlawful gift. The suit also contends that the Von Maur deal unlawfully poaches jobs, income and opportunities from a neighboring community.

University of Iowa

Many of the University of Iowa’s flood recovery plans remained in limbo in 2012.

Projects like the Museum of Art, power plant and utility system tunnels, the Studio Arts building and Voxman/Clapp and Hancher Auditorium are still in the works.

University leaders have continued discussions with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and has struggled to get full funding approval from government officials.

By 2015, the area will have four Kirkwood Regional Centers, including one in Johnson County. Kirkwood has partnered with UI and area school districts to develop the centers. The Johnson County Regional Center at the University of Iowa Research Park in Coralville. The three centers being planned will be modeled after the Jones Regional Center in Monticello.

The facilities will offer college programs to high school students across the region. The Monticello location has partnered with eight local schools that arrange to send students for various courses. In some cases, a student could graduate high school with an AA degree. The centers also act as a way for the area high schools to collaborate on different courses that the schools don’t have the resources to teach or haven’t been able to fill a classroom of students.

Teaching those courses in a high school can become expensive with equipment, and time consuming for teachers to prepare for. The 92,000-square-foot facility will cost $22 million-$25 million to construct. That amounts to about $200-$225 per square foot.

Details of what will go into the building are still being determined. Features could include energy efficient features like a green roof, solar panels and small wind turbines.

The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics continued to grow with demand in 2012.

UIHC opened its new, $73 million Ambulatory Care Clinic Facility at Coralville’s Iowa River Landing District in October. The facility can accommodate 300,000 annual patient visits on the 1.2-acre lot. It will move portions of several outpatient clinics from UIHC’s main campus on Hawkins Drive to First Avenue, diverting 20 percent of the hospital’s outpatient traffic to the new location.

Since the Pomerantz Family Pavilion opened in 1995 at UIHC’s main campus, clinic volume has almost doubled. Visits were estimated to total 850,000 this year.

By 2016, Iowa City will have a new children’s hospital. Plans and discussions of the new building have continued this year.

It will cost about $292 million, funded through bonds, patient revenue, and private gifts. No tax dollars are being used, according to the UIHC website.

The building will be about 480,000 square feet in new construction plus 56,250 square feet of renovated existing space.

The new children’s hospital tower will be between the Pomerantz and Pappajohn pavilions, facing Kinnick Stadium.

Other features to the new building will include: education/conference space; pediatric specialty clinics; three 28-bed medical/ surgical inpatient units; 28-bed Neonatal Intensive Care Unit; 28-bed Pediatric Intensive Care Unit; pediatric surgery and support; pediatric imaging, procedure suite and support; two floors for future expansion; ancillary and support services; inpatient pharmacy, food and nutrition/ dining, sterile processing; environmental services, materials management.

Also this year, the UI hired Daniel Reed as the vice president for research and economic development. A majority of his career has been spent working in higher education. Mr. Reed joined Microsoft in 2007. There, he helped build and lead research and prototyping on cloud and parallel computing. He later led Microsoft’s global technology policy group, helping foster dialog on the influence of technology on societal issues and government policy. He most recently served as a corporate vice president, reporting to the company’s chief research and strategy officer.

In his position, Mr. Reed with oversee the UI Research Park, IOWA Centers for Enterprise, the UI Research Foundation, the deputy general counsel and the associate VP of government relations. His focus will be on facilitating faculty research success across all areas of scholarship and research at the UI.

North Liberty

The 100,000-square-foot University of Iowa Community Credit Union Member Support Center building in North Liberty will house the call center, accounting department, loan and deposit processing, indirect auto lending, collections, information technologies, auditing, commercial services, business development, public relations, training, human resources, marketing and senior management.

Work on the North Liberty project broke ground about a year ago. It is expected to be complete near the end of 2013. During the next 20-30 years, it will likely house 400 employees, he said. The facility will have space for much of the company’s administrative and back office operations. It will also be a branch office, located in North Liberty along the east side of Interstate 330, south of the Penn Street exit. Expected cost of the project is between $25 million and $30 million.

Small businesses have been popping up in North Liberty this year, as well.

Businesses like We Run, a specialty running store; North Liberty’s first McDonalds and Itsy Bitsy Boutique, a children’s store; among others, opened doors in 2012, taking advantage of North Liberty’s rapid growth.