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Revamping Broadway condos may have mixed results

BY EMILY HOERNER | FEBRUARY 04, 2011 7:10 AM

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Though officials made the Southeast Side of Iowa City off-limits to new affordable housing, using a new computer mapping program, one development firm will try to renovate the existing Broadway Condominiums and eventually own all 108 units across three buildings.

Officials with Southgate Development asked the Iowa City City Council for $900,000 to help with the $5.7 million project. They would eventually pay the grant back.

While renovating privately owned affordable housing can improve a neighborhood’s image and help lower crime rates, it can also raise prices above what low-income families can afford to pay, experts said.

Jerry Anthony, a University of Iowa urban and regional planning associate professor, said even a relatively low-cost project can negatively affect families unless its accompanied by a significant government subsidy.

“The people who live there right now are probably people who can afford that place,” said Anthony. “If the price of the rehab unit goes up by as little as $50,000, those people would not be able to come back.”

Glenn Siders, the vice president of Southgate Development, said rent will likely increase at the condos, though it will remain within the affordable housing guidelines. He said the Broadway property has been neglected, which aids to the problematic past he hopes to change.

“We have a standard lease for all of our properties,” he said. “One thing we strongly believe in is we have a crime-free clause in our lease.”

They also do background checks on all tenants, and Siders said owning all the units would allow them more control over the property.

“We look at this as a way to improve or stabilize the area,” said Steve Long, the city’s planning and community development coordinator.

Anthony said stricter background checks can change a building’s reputation, but renovations may not be necessary.

“They can do that without rehabbing the place,” said Anthony.

After Southgate Development renovated a neighboring complex — a project similar in scope to this one — occupancy has been steady, and Siders said he couldn’t recall the last time there was a crime report there.

However, Broadway’s reputation has been hurting its success, Siders said.

The condominiums have been notorious for their high crime rates, which culminated in October 2009, when then-17-year-old Charles W.C. Thompson allegedly shot and killed John Versypt, one of the condominium’s owners.

But officials hope the move will change that.

“I would like to see Broadway rehabbed,” said City Councilor Connie Champion during Monday’s special meeting. “It’s so awful.”

Councilor Mike Wright said since the rents in those condominiums are already below market value, renovation would be “fantastic.”

These improvements could enhance the quality of life for those living in the units, said Councilor Regenia Bailey.

“I see it as an investment in an area that may have affordable housing,” Bailey said.


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