Downtown Iowa City high rises unveiled

By Pat Shaver

The corner of College and Gilbert streets in Iowa City will eventually be a vibrant downtown corner.

Whether that includes New Pioneer Co-op, movie theaters, restaurants, bowling alleys, rental or owner-occupied apartments, hotel space, a rooftop garden, underground parking, or commercial office space is still up in the air.

The quarter block parcel is located on the northeast corner of the intersection of Gilbert and College streets. Iowa City officials are considering several different proposals to redevelop the area.

Developers proposed plans and features for the site during presentations at an Iowa City City Council work session last week. The five finalists include: Sherman Associates, Chauncey Gardens, The Chauncey, 4 Zero 4, and Ryan/Iceberg.

Four of the five proposals include space for New Pioneer Co-op.

A committee of representatives from the city manager’s office, planning, public works and city attorney’s office, as well as two councilors and an outside financial consultant narrowed the nine proposals to the five being considered.

“We have five compelling choices before us, I think this will be a very difficult decision,” said Iowa City Mayor Matt Hayek.

The five proposals can be viewed at The city is inviting the public to submit e-mailed comments to [email protected].

The public can also comment at the council’s regular formal meeting on Dec. 4, at 7 p.m. at city hall, 410 E. Washington St. E-mails and written input should be submitted by Dec. 10.

The earliest the council will make a decision on a developer and concept will be at its Dec. 18 meeting. Following the selection of a preferred development team, the city and the developer will begin negotiating an agreement for the redevelopment of the property at the northeast corner of College Street and Gilbert Street.

Each developer presented their plans and then was questioned by the council at the Nov. 26 meeting. The council questioned the developers on the height of the buildings proposed, overall vision of the downtown and how office/residential space would be filled.

Sherman and Associates presented a 13-story building that would include New Pioneer Co-op on the first floor, one floor of office space and another 11 floors for workforce housing rental units.

“It’s an urban environment that should be alive and awake that attracts other residents,” said George Sherman, owner of Sherman and Associates. “We want the area to become a place of energy, a place of lifestyles and a place that drives other development around it.”

The apartments would range in size from 600-1,400 square feet and cater to people who work downtown and earn a $40,000-$80,000 salary, Mr. Sherman said.

The floor for offices, Mr. Sherman said, could potentially be used by the city or the
University of Iowa.

“Office (space) is tending to be the weakest in the market,” he said. “The university market is the strongest, not just the University of Iowa.”

Sherman and Associates has developed about 8,500 multifamily, townhouse and single-family homes, 600,000 square feet of commercial space and two hotel properties.

Total costs of the necessary post-tension concrete construction are estimated to be more than $50 million. Sherman has identified $35.15 million in hard funding sources toward the development, leaving almost $14.97 million that must be filled by other sources. Tax increment financing, EZ Credits and land contributions have been estimated at $8.57 million; leaving a financing gap of $6.39 million.

Chauncey Gardens has proposed an 18-story building that would also include the New Pioneer Coop on the first floor, another floor dedicated to retail and restaurant space and two floors for offices.

There would be 13 floors of studio, one and two bedroom apartments, and one floor dedicated to resident amenities. The building will also include a rooftop wine garden.

“I see this as a destination point,” said Jesse Allen, president of Chauncey Gardens
LLC. “We’re creating a vibrant commercial corner for Iowa City that’s going to be here longer than I’ll be around.”

They estimate the project would cost $47 million and anticipate about $12 million in city gap financing.

Khalid Khan, project designer with Neumann Monson Architects, said the project would feature multiple green spaces, utilize natural light and every level will have shared public spaces.

The residential portion is aimed to attract the “creative class,” recent graduates, and retired residents, Mr. Khan said.

The Chauncey proposal is the tallest among the five, at 20 stories. The building would include several new entertainment options to the downtown. Two movie theaters, which will be operated by FilmScene, and two 6-lane bowling alleys would be main features of the building, said Steve Rohrbach, with Rohrbach Associates and member of The Chauncey development team.

The building will include office space, a 35-unit hotel, along with 12 floors of residential
units. The project would increase the tax base, contributing about $1.3 million a year, said Marc Moen, with Moen Group and a member of the development team.

“What it does is it creates new, creative, dynamic environments downtown,” Mr. Moen said. “It’s important that we appeal to a creative class of people.”

The 283,322-square-foot building would cost about $53 million. The council questioned a few of the developers who included office space in their plans about the risk of not being to
fill the space.

“There’s a large amount of office users and more coming but we’re not going to be able to attract them unless we build space for them,” Mr. Moen said.

4 Zero 4 will focus its efforts on sustainability.

The building will have renewable energy incorporated throughout. The proposal is for an eight-story building that would include the New Pioneer Co-op and the Iowa City Bike Library on the first floor, two floors of office space, and five floors of efficiency, one and two
bedroom apartments.

The project aims to achieve LEED platinum certification and it would provide net zero living space. More than 1,300 photovoltaic panels are proposed on the building’s

“This is happening across the world, there’s no reason why it can’t happen here,” said Tim Dwight, with Integrated Power Corp., who is leading the project. “With this project I want to bring in a lot of value.”

The project is expected to cost about $29 million.

Ryan Companies/Iceberg Development proposed a straightforward plan: a building with only two uses. The first floor would be occupied by New Pioneer Coop. The remaining four floors would be for condos.

“We want something that’s achievable in two years,” said Marc Gullickson, with
Ryan Companies.

The group decided to build something similar in size to the other buildings nearby. They also plan to pursue LEED certification and included a green roof, solar panels and a rooftop cistern collection system in their proposal.

Jim Bergman, owner of Iceberg Development, said their project will focus on cost-effective construction and will benefit by only having two uses and two owners.

Residential units would range from 500-950 square feet.