North Side takes step toward some history

BY CLARK CAHILL | APRIL 03, 2009 7:37 AM

Iowa City’s North Side neighborhood is one step closer to being accepted as a historic district.

The Iowa City Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to recommend a proposal for the neighborhood to be designated as such a district on Thursday night.

The North Side Neighborhood Association presented the proposal to the city’s Historic Preservation Commission — a group of 10 community members who conduct studies for the identification and designation of historic districts. The commission was responsible for deciding whether the neighborhood has historical significance, the city Historic Preservation planner Christina Kuecker said.

Lindsay Bunting Eubanks, the head of the Historic Preservation Commission, said the members felt the community has historical significance.

“The neighborhood is already listed on the National Register,” she said. “This is a way to protect that status and keep the neighborhood vibrant.”

The neighborhood is on the National Register of Historic Places because federal money is invested in Emma J. Harvat and Mary E. Stach House, 332 E. Davenport St.

At Thursday’s meeting, Planning and Zoning members considered whether making the area a historic district would interfere with any future plans.

“This could be an economic development tool,” member Tim Weitzel said. “It could increase property values, quality of life, and overall appearance of the neighborhood.”

The final step for the North Side Neighborhood would be getting approval from the Iowa City City Council.

If a neighborhood is designated as part of a historic district, there are two primary impacts for the area. The Historic Preservation Commission must approve all future proposals for major projects and exterior renovations of residences in the designated district and also focuses on the upkeep of each establishment.

“It basically requires that people don’t let their buildings rot to the ground,” North Side Neighborhood Association member Judith Pascoe said.

If the neighborhood becomes a historic district, it doesn’t close off the neighborhood to future projects.

Between 1984 and 2006, the commission reviewed 475 building projects, Pascoe said. The commission turned down 16 requests, but eight of those found an alternative solution to their proposal.

Some neighborhood members said Thursday they are worried about the expenses involved with the upkeep of their property.

“This is a large area with a lot of different types of properties,” neighborhood resident Walter Kopsa said. “It makes it difficult to maintain some properties and I think some will never get fixed because it isn’t practical.”

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