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Proposal for downtown Iowa City high rise includes full-time cinema

BY NATHANIEL OTJEN | OCTOBER 05, 2012 6:30 AM

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A proposed 20-story high rise containing a full-time cinema could be in Iowa City’s future.

While officials associated with the project said they’re excited, some locals are worried the approval of another high rise downtown could clutter Iowa City’s landscape.

Iowa City’s nonprofit independent film company FilmScene partnered with the Chauncey LLC — the company behind the proposed tower — in submitting a request for proposal for city officials to review.

The proposed Chauncey is a mixed-use tower planning to include 12 bowling lanes, a café, and a gallery for art and sculpture. It will include space to house FilmScene’s film education and media literacy programs. The building would be located in the lot at the intersection of College and Gilbert Streets, next to the Chauncey Swan parking Ramp.

Nine requests for the space on that intersection were filed this week. Ten requests were filed Monday, but one has been since rescinded, city transportation planner John Yapp told The Daily Iowan Thursday. The Chauncey is just one of the proposals submitted; they will be reviewed by a committee at the end of October.

“We trust the city to do a thorough job of evaluating the proposals and choosing the best project for the site,” said Andrew Sherburne, a cofounder of FilmScene. “It’s an exciting project; we’re excited to be a part of it.”

Rohrbach and Associates designed the building, and it is expected to take up to three years to complete from the time of groundbreaking.

“We’re really excited to be able to bring this to Iowa City,” said Steven Rohrbach, president of Rohrbach and Associates. “We have a vested interest in this project.”

Rohrbach and Associates have been communicating with FilmScene since the fall of 2011, and Rohrbach hopes the multiuse tower will bring new ideas and thoughts to downtown.

City officials will recommend a set of finalists to propose to the City Council in the upcoming months.

“It’s a lot of information to go through,” Yapp said.

Kris Ackerson, a city transportation planner, said the Bike Library, 408 E. College St., would not be displaced by any of the proposed projects because the owners are taking their shop elsewhere.

Officials from the Bike Library were unable to be reached for comment Thursday evening.

Andy Brodie, the other cofounder of FilmScene, said central Iowa City has needed a movie theater for a long time.

“There are a lot of things I love about Iowa City,” he said. “However, the modern-dynamic space for film is missing.”

He said the 20-story building is best for Iowa City because it’s hard to develop in new spaces.

“I think that’s the kind of development you need in downtown Iowa City,” Brodie said. “The best use of land is to build vertically.”

FilmScene is periodically hosting  Friday night movies through its StarLight series, a chain of Friday night outdoor films.

The next movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, is scheduled for Oct. 12.

FilmScene will begin temporarily occupying the base floor of the former Vito’s building, 118 E. College St., in 2013. That space is being renovated.

Some community members don’t agree with more high-rise developments in Iowa City. The Chauncey will be the third proposed or currently developing high rise for the city. Marc Moen’s 14-story mixed-use building is going up at 114 S. Dubuque St. and there is a proposed 12-story hotel tower at 320 S. Clinton St.

“It’s good they’re getting business here — for jobs,” Hiba Qasem, the manager of Cappana said.
But at the same time she thinks the high rises will make Iowa City lose its charm.

“Iowa City is losing its small-town feel,” she said. “Really high buildings can take away from the atmosphere.”

UI sophomore Brendan Nevin said he thinks the high rises could clutter the downtown.

“If they’re too big, it’d be kind of an eyesore. It could change the city,” he said. “It’s nice walking through here and having to not look at huge buildings.”


Editor's note: The headline on a previous version of this story incorrectly stated a film group proposed the tower. In fact, the cinema would only be part of the building and The Chauncey LLC is the group behind the proposal.


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