The Vine building may be designated as historic site

BY NICK HASSETT | MARCH 06, 2013 5:00 AM

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The Vine Tavern Building has been in Iowa City for more than 100 years. And now, the Iowa City City Council is taking steps to immortalize it as a landmark.

The City Council set a public hearing for the designation of the building, 330 E. Prentiss St., as a historic landmark.

The council also set a hearing on the issue of allowing apartments in buildings designated as historic landmarks, a classification that the Vine would fall into.

Both resolutions will be discussed at a public hearing on March 19.

City Councilor Terry Dickens thought the building was important to preserve.

“There’s a lot of historical value in that area; that building has been around as long as I can remember,” he said. “It’s important to save those buildings.”

An employee from the Vine was not available for comment Tuesday evening.

The special exception that’s required to allow apartments in historic landmarks is already allowed in CB-10 zoned buildings. The amendment would extend this option to landmark buildings located in the CB-5 zone, like the Vine Tavern Building.

The zoning code amendment would allow the Board of Adjustment to consider allowing apartments on the ground level floor of a building located in the CB-5 zone that is designated as an Iowa City landmark.

City Councilor Rick Dobyns thought the council should look at the decision carefully.

“Preserving something of historical significance can add to a neighborhood, but it can also detract from a neighborhood if it’s not part of a future vision,” he said. “In a historical district, it’s hard to make changes.”

Because the building is located in the Riverfront Crossing District, Dobyns thinks the area is subject to change, which may be difficult if it is designated as a historical landmark.

He also emphasized that the decision to allow apartments in the building should fit within the overall vision of the city, providing affordable housing.

In a work session before the formal City Council meeting, city staff members presented several buildings located in Des Moines as an example to which they believe would be good models for affordable housing in Iowa City, particularly in the Riverfront Crossing District.

However, city staff drew a contrast between workforce housing and off-campus student housing, and emphasized that their focus in the presentation was on the former.

“The distinction between student housing and workforce housing is the level of finish and the amenities provided,” said Jeff Davidson, the director of Planning and Community Development in Iowa City.

The Planning and Zoning Commission will move forward with the next step of the process, considering the amendments for the historic designation and apartments at their March 7 meeting. It is anticipated they will make a recommendation to the city on both measures prior to the March 19 city council meeting.

“I probably will support [the historic designation],” City Councilor Jim Throgmorton said. “It depends on what we hear in the public hearing; there are other people that know more about this than me.”

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