Bruegger's to reopen on Iowa Ave. following fire

BY MATT STARNS | AUGUST 28, 2012 6:30 AM

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After a post-midnight blaze leveled the downtown business nearly a year ago, Bruegger’s Bagels is poised to begin construction on a new building at the same location, 225 Iowa Ave.

Mario Arguelles — a manager at the 715 S. Riverside Drive Bruegger’s Bagels location and former general manager at the Iowa Avenue location — said the new store is set to open in January 2013.

“We’re planning to open Jan. 9,” he said. “But that’s still tentative, based on how quickly they get things built.”

Arguelles said winter weather could slow the construction of the new building.

He also said former Iowa Avenue Bruegger’s staffers who remained with the company will be offered the opportunity to return to their original store.

“The staff originally at the Iowa Avenue location was dispersed to the Riverside and Coralville locations,” he said. “Some will return, and there will also be plenty of new staff as well.”

The fire, which broke out early on the morning of Sept. 24, 2011, quickly spread from Bruegger’s to neighboring buildings, including the historic Van Patten house on Linn Street, which was also destroyed. By 7:30 a.m., when firefighters declared the fire under control, smoke and water from the fire and fire suppression efforts had damaged Takanami, Yacht Club, Studio 13, and AKAR Design, all in buildings adjacent to the 225 Iowa Ave. property.  

Tim Hennes, a senior building inspector for the city, said the process for rebuilding a property after a fire is fairly simple.

“Once the [fire] investigation is done, and the owner has decided to rebuild, they go through essentially the same process as if you were building on a vacant lot,” he said. “Once they obtain the permit and go through a zoning review, they can build.”

The investigation into the fire at 225 Iowa Ave. took much longer than Iowa City Fire Marshall John Grier had anticipated because of the volume of debris from the fire. During the course of the investigation, 56 articles from the scene of the fire were sent to Anderson Engineering Co. in Streamwood, Ill. for evaluation.

Blueprints for the planned building are markedly similar to the original Bruegger’s structure — the two-story building will house three one-bedroom apartments above the bakery, with one dedicated exterior point of access for the apartments and one shared entrance to the apartment stairs and Bruegger’s space.

George Etre, the owner of neighboring Takanami, 219 Iowa Ave., said though his business recovered quickly from last year’s fire, he feels Bruegger’s return will bring a welcome increase in traffic to Iowa Avenue.

“They have a great following and a large traffic flow, and it’s just going to showcase Takanami to more and more customers,” he said. “We want to be around the action. We want our neighbors to have people going in and out.”

Etre also said the new building will be a refreshing change from Takanami’s recent neighbor, an empty lot.

“Our patio is right next to that construction site, so it’ll be nice when they’ve moved back in,” he said.

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