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Office tower, condos, parking ramp set for Riverfront Crossings

BY QUENTIN MISIAG | APRIL 19, 2013 5:00 AM

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As one historically significant building is set to face demolition, another downtown Iowa City landmark will receive nearly $8 million in preservation efforts.

And both efforts are thanks to one Iowa City-based business.

MidWestOne Financial Group now plans to tear down a nearly 100-year-old former Iowa City elementary school to make room for a development that will encompass a mortgage center, high-end office space, townhomes, and a multistory parking ramp.

At the same time, however, the firm plans on investing between $7 million and $8 million in renovations to its downtown headquarters, 102 S. Clinton St.

CEO Charlie Funk and Neumann Monson Architects President Kevin Monson revealed plans Wednesday for a two-tier project in front of the city’s Economic Development Committee at City Hall, aiming to make the concept of constructing a public parking ramp, six-story office tower, and four-story townhome-style condominium building for area young professionals, a reality. The committee voted to recommend the full council sign a letter of intent so that the plan can move forward. At a meeting next month, the council will consider the plan.

“Having this class of the new building and the District will hopefully be a forerunner for our city,” Monson said. “It’s a fantastic win for the bank, the UI, and the community. We’re really trying to make it one of the most high performance office buildings that Iowa City has.”

Monson said the bank is anticipated to occupy the first three floors of the new office tower, with the remaining stories set to be leased or put up for sale.

Under the plan, MidWestOne, which currently operates a home-mortgage center in the former Sabin Elementary School, 509 S. Dubuque St., would demolish that structure and a nearby parking lot in order to bring an initial 80 bank employees a 560-space, six-story parking ramp and between 22 and 24 condominiums to one of the city’s most targeted redevelopment areas.

Monson said MidWestOne would also invest between $7 million and $8 million into historic preservation of its  headquarters, including bringing back original cornice details, replacing all windows, and installing central air conditioning. Once complete, all six floors will be dedicated toward banking operations.

Jeff Davidson, the city director of planning and development, said the proposal for the buildings would serve as a strong development catalyst in an area ripe with potential. The addition of the renovation of the bank’s headquarters, he said, signals a sense of excitement occurring downtown.

“When you’ve got a building that age, you’ve got to make some investment,” he said. “We want to have a mix of uses; places of employment, to live, coffee shops, and to be able to go out to eat.”

Davidson said he has worked with the bank in determining that the townhome-style condominium units would fall under the category of workforce housing, for people making an estimated $40,000 to $80,000 annually.

Each of the proposed two-bedroom condominium units would be two floors, totaling 1,100 square feet on the first two floors and 1,300 square feet on the top two levels.

“The bank has anticipated that some of its employees would live in the townhomes, because they are interested in downtown,” Davidson said.

He said nearly one-third of the new six-story parking structure will house condominium owner vehicles who would likely obtain parking permits. The remaining two-thirds would be available for public use.

MidWestOne, the University of Iowa, and the city are partnering in the project, which begin in the preliminary stages following the 2008 flood.

The UI is set to build a new music building facing Clinton Street to replace a the facilities damaged in the flood. That land previously included the MidWestOne loan center, 325 S. Clinton St. and an adjacent Bank of the West branch. 

The UI bought the School District property last year and sold a portion to MidWestOne, which currently operates its home-loan center in the former school. The bank has told the UI it plans to exercise its option to buy the remaining portions of the property.

Greg Carney, the owner of Racquet Master Bike & Ski, 620 S. Dubuque St., said the city has neglected historic-preservation efforts and retail opportunities in recent years and the pending demolition of Sabin further demonstrates that. He believes the rising income levels of UI undergraduate students may cause the proposed condominium units to be turned into dorm-like apartments.  

“They’ve been talking about expanding downtown for years,” he said. “It seems like everywhere you look, there is more and more apartments and condos; it’s incredible that it hasn’t reached a point of saturation yet. I just don’t feel like the city cares about preserving anything anymore.”

City Councilor Susan Mims, who sits on the economic-development committee, said despite the demolition of a historic structure, the area will benefit from an additional component she says is now lacking.

“We need class-A office space downtown, and I think this will give us a good start with that,” she said. “It is always unfortunate to see historic facilities taken down, but you have to balance that with the economics of the situation, like the usefulness of the facility, upkeep and costs.”


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