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Iowa City intends on turning residential rental properties into a passenger rail station, which would serve passengers traveling from Chicago to Iowa City. The agreement, negotiated by city staff and unanimously approved by Iowa City Council during the Oct. 18 meeting, allows the city to purchase three residential rental properties at 800 S. Van Buren St., 804 S. Van Buren St., and 817 S. Webster St. The three properties had a total appraised value for $507,000 but was bought for $475,000. All three sites are located south of the Iowa Interstate Railroad rail yard and west of Oak Grove Park. "Amtrak is currently working with the state of Illinois to build out the Chicago to Quad Cities leg of that route, and in their recently announced 15-year vision, Amtrak again continued to identify this route's extension to Iowa City as a priority," said Geoff Fruin, city manager for Iowa City. "That is certainly a long way to go." Amtrak's 15-year plan, as well as the federal $1.2 trillion infrastructure package with $66 billion set aside for the expansion of rail service across the nation, restored optimism last year in a potential train route from Chicago to Iowa City. Earlier this year 817 S Webster St. was listed for sale. City council agenda documents show city staff found out the property owner was willing to sell two adjacent properties at the same time as well. The city had held a long-term interest in acquiring the properties. The state of Iowa identified the site as a "preferred altenative" in engineering studies for a future rail station. If the location is selected, city staff said that owning the properties will allow for additional site design flexibility and will create a "stronger buffer between the rail service and the surrounding neighborhood, including Oak Grove Park." Should Amtrak and the state of Iowa choose a different location, Iowa City can use the properties for the linear expansion of Oak Grove Park and provide a "more natural" buffer between the rail yard and neighborhood. The properties will be maintained as residential uses for the foreseeable future, said Mr. Fruin. According to Amtrak’s website, an Amtrak train ride from Chicago to Moline would take around three hours, while the entire trip to Iowa City would take just under four hours. The plan would bring in $81 million annually, plus $2.2 billion in economic activity from one-time capital investments.
New round of ARPA allocationsIowa City Council agreed to allocate $400,000 to 14 local nonprofits through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Nonprofit Operating Assistance funds program. Funds went toward homelessness assistance or housing stabilization, childcare needs services, health care (including mental health services), and food assistance. Below are the agreed upon recommendations
- Dream City: $42,000
- Houses into Homes: $10,000
- CommUnity: $30,843
- InsideOut Reentry: $20,000
- United Action for Youth: $65,925
- Big Brothers Big Sisters of Johnson Co: $28,444
- Neighborhood Centers of Johnson Co: $29,475
- TRAIL of Johnson Co: $20,000
- Domestic Violence Intervention Program (DVIP): $45,000
- Open Heartland: $37,493
- IC Compassion: $15,000
- Table 2 Table: $55,819
- Whether funds requested were to be used for operations
- If the project was already funded by other city efforts
- Whether an increase in funds would be proportional to the effects of COVID-19
- Applicant's ability to leverage other funding
- Demonstration of sustainability of the project
- Agency capacity and past performance