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Moen development projects in downtown Iowa City progressing

BY QUENTIN MISIAG | MARCH 12, 2013 5:00 AM

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Three prominent projects are underway downtown. Though some completion dates and have shifted and predicted budgets have increased, city officials say one thing is for sure: the face of downtown is changing. 

Following completion of the Packing & Provisions Building, 118 E. College St., in September and the Nov. 1 opening of the 14-story Park@201 building, 114 S. Dubuque St., approximately $13 million in new downtown investment will be complete. 

Interest in living and reinvesting in downtown has soared, so much so that officials from Des Moines and Cedar Rapids have attempted to court veteran real-estate developer Marc Moen to their cities.
“I think every city is very interested in its downtown’s being vital,” Moen said. “I think it’s a national trend, and it’s sustainable.”

Today, Moen’s commitment is evident in both the redevelopment of the Packing & Provisions and the construction of two glass towers: the 14-story Park@201 building, 114 S. Dubuque St. and the 20-story high-rise, the Chauncey, slated to be built at the intersection of College and Gilbert Streets.

A starting date is pending, but the duration will be approximately 24 months plus six months for commercial space build outs.

The Iowa Coalition Against the Shadow, a group spearheaded by Iowa City residents Jon Fogarty and Rockne Cole, has met to discuss ways to stop the development.

“Iowa City is known for space, and we’re crowding it too much,” Iowa City resident Dana Thomann told the DI in a Jan. 29 article. “This building should be built to not have a shadow.”

Park@201 — set for a Nov. 1 completion — is expected to join the downtown landscape two months after the Packing & Provision Building opens in September. Combined, the two buildings will make for an estimated $13 million in investment; among their features include the 85-seat Scene 1 cinema operated by FilmScene,

Moen said although definitive plans for the Chauncey are still in negotiations with the city and Park@201 remains under construction, a number of inquiries regarding their office and residential units have recently sprouted.

“That 24-hour nature [downtown] is a big component of why it’s been so successful,” he said.

As Park@201 remains on time and on budget, plans for the Packing & Provision have transitioned from a basic concept to a complete historic preservation, after being purchased by Moen in 2011.

Despite climbing above the original $1 million budget by $300,000, Moen said, small details such as the reinstallation of original windows and cornice make the project worthwhile.

“I thought that if somebody didn’t come in and restore that building, [it] was going to decline beyond repair and would have to come down,” Moen said. “Architecturally, the building is turning out even better than I had hoped.  So, although we’re well over budget, I am happy because we have accomplished the goals we set out to accomplish.”

Nancy Bird, the Downtown District executive director, said although the community at large debates the character of large-scale developments like the Moen Group’s, growth is a balancing act.

“Denser development provides a lower carbon footprint per capita, is centrally concentrated, provides a mix of uses to allow people to live and work in a localized setting, and reduces sprawl,” she wrote in an email.

City officials believe the success of Moen’s projects have and will continue to push other developers, business owners, and property managers to reinvest in downtown.

Geoff Fruin, assistant to the Iowa City city manager said high-quality developments, a new wave of public policies, and a strong relationship with the Iowa City Downtown District are the components that will push downtown forward.

“The reality is that all successful downtowns are different, and they have to find their niche,” he said. “There’s no cookie-cutter approach to building a successful downtown.”


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