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As city council meetings go, the April 6 gathering of the Hiawatha City Council was a doozy. So much so that Hiawatha City Administrator Kim Downs termed it an “$83 million agenda” in terms of development projects underway in the city of approximately 7,300 residents north of Cedar Rapids. And the most encouraging aspect of the city’s development growth, Ms. Downs said, is the high proportion of new housing developments. “It’s an interesting time,” she said. “Over the past 10 years or longer, we’ve had very much a commercially driven development community. We’ve had housing, certainly, but not at the level that we’re seeing at the moment. We actually predicted this probably two years ago. I remember going back and looking at one of my budget memos when I shared with council that we were going to see a flip, where housing would be our docket versus commercial.” In a March 30 memo, Ms. Downs asked the council to support workforce and affordable housing tax credits pursued by developers of several multi-family housing developments. In that memo, she noted that a housing study completed in February 2020 projected that Hiawatha would need 387 additional housing units to meet demand by 2024, and another 437 units would be needed by 2029. “That’s significant,” she said. “When you think about all our commercial development, how do we meet people’s needs and keep people from leaving our community? Wouldn’t it be great if everybody could work, live and play in Hiawatha and not necessarily leave Hiawatha to go to their homes?” The study identified potential household groups and locations for development in Hiawatha, including proposed housing products and estimated financials, to serve as a focal point for discussing incentives and the potential magnitude and scale of development costs. “Hiawatha’s opportunities were to reshape its residential landscape over the next decade, including identifying methods to expand workforce housing to capture young professional in-commuters as residents,” the memo read. “Today, we have a relatively strong market for homes above $300k, an upcoming interchange (Interstate 380 at Tower Terrace Road), and an aging multi-family housing stock. “The study noted Hiawatha’s lower rental rates in comparison to surrounding areas,” the memo added. “The city is an attractive location, and due to its aging rental properties, the rental apartment market has growth potential. The study was very clear in stating new development of apartments should be a mix of income points to attract existing Hiawatha employees to not only work in the city but also live in Hiawatha. Hiawatha’s local developers will need to utilize assistance (from) our urban revitalization plan, especially to keep rents affordable to most workers in the Hiawatha market.” The memo highlights three significant residential developments in the works in Hiawatha. The first is a $6.5 million, three-story, 52-unit essential senior housing facility at 875 Edgewood Road, just south of the Hiawatha Fareway store. Being developed by Landover Corporation, the units are expected to rent at the area’s market rate, currently $600-$800 a month. The project is significant, Ms. Downs said, because Hiawatha is virtually devoid of senior housing options. In addition, projects like this will open housing options for other prospective incoming homebuyers. “It’s such a great need for us,” she said. “The seniors are living in the homes that people are looking for, and they don’t necessarily want to move from that home because they want to stay in their community, but there’s no place for them to go outside of the home they live in. They don’t want to leave their church. They want to go to their favorite grocery store. They don’t want to be too far away from their neighbors that they’ve had forever.” With a $41 million price tag, the second project will consist of a pet-friendly, gated community with seven multi-family buildings, each with 28 studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom residential units. It’s slated to be developed by Anthony Properties at 100 Boyson Road, just northwest of the intersection of Boyson and Robins roads. The market-rate luxury units will include large living areas, spacious bathrooms and walk-in closets, and each unit will consist of a patio or balcony. The development will also incorporate a dog park, a resort-style swimming pool and a tanning bed. And the third project is the oft-discussed Oakbrook development at 155 Robins Road, just a stone’s throw from Hiawatha City Hall. In a five-phase project, developer HUB LLC is currently pursuing the first two phases of a $15 million multi-family development that will feature three- to four-story market-residential units with approximately 30 market-rate studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units in each building, along with associated parking and amenities.
Public hearings were also held during the meeting to enter into development agreements for several other projects, including:
- A pair of commercial office and warehouse buildings, each about 24,000 square feet, are being developed by Hiawatha Properties LLC at 2012 and 2112 Robins road;
- A 12,000-square-foot commercial office and warehouse building is being developed by Industrial Avenue, LLC at 1408 Industrial Ave.;
- An 8,700-square-foot commercial office building is being developed by Armstrong Development at 1063 Longfellow Square, just north of the Skogman Realty offices; and
- A new Scooter’s drive-thru coffee shop on a small triangular parcel, previously city-owned, at the corner of Boyson and Robins roads.