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Coralville Iowa River Landing sees continued investment

BY QUENTIN MISIAG | APRIL 26, 2013 5:00 AM

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Area officials say a 180-acre plot of land off Interstate 80 — once stigmatized as an environmentally hazardous industrial park — is today coming to fruition as a true ‘front door’ to the greater Cedar Rapids/Iowa City corridor, following decades of community planning discussions and more than $313 million in development projects since opening in 2006.

Coralville’s Iowa River Landing District, once littered with worn warehouse spaces and a hodgepodge of automotive-related businesses, is today one of the fastest-developing projects in eastern Iowa.

Weathering record flooding in 2008, controversial TIF-related activity, and the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, construction has started to return to the mixed-use development.

“… [It]  is really picking up steam and really filling out the vision we had for the area,” Coralville City Administrator Kelly Hayworth said, noting other area redevelopment projects, including the Riverfront Crossings District.

He noted that $20 million in further construction planned or underway will bring the area’s first rooftop restaurant, 30Hop, a five-story, 60-unit condominium project, and another retail project. Considerations for a Cambus route to run between the district, the UIHC main campus, and downtown are being mulled.

Manager Tuan Nguyen said customer flow during his first two years at Konomi Grill, 843 Quarry Road Ste. 140, was lagging to the point that staff salaries had to be cut. The two years following the June 3, 2008, opening, however, have resulted in an 80 percent increase in total business.

“At first, it was pretty slow because there was nothing around here,” he said. “We’re hoping with Von Maur opening soon, that will help our lunch business out.”

Previous controversy related to Von Maur’s arrival has been coupled with recent attempts to lure downtown Iowa City businesses to the district. Coralville city consultant Deanna Trumbull said the intent is to attract more people to the entire Iowa City area to stay for longer periods of time.

The city of Coralville granted the luxury department store an incentive package valued at nearly $16 million to build a larger store in the district, leading the store to vacate Iowa City’s Sycamore Mall. Von Maur’s 80,000-square-foot department store is set for a late July opening.

Trumbull further praised on-going work downtown, saying that partnerships between the UI and the Downtown District are evidence that the two areas can work together cohesively to grow and create “cross-shopping” patterns.

“There’s a tremendous number of entrepreneurs in this market that have the opportunity to expand here,” she said. “It’s not so much geographically driven but product niches and how they fit into the market.”

JoS A. Bank, Scratch Cupcakery, 30hop restaurant, and Charlotte’s Deli each recently announced future Iowa River Landing locations. The businesses are expected to open in spring 2014 and June, October, and November 2013, respectively. Combined with the recently opened Backpocket Brewery, nearly 40,000 square feet of new commercial space will come online.

The north side area of Ninth Street — yet to be built out — will total more than 100,000 square feet. Trumbull said talks are underway with prospective office tenants for 40,000 square feet on the second floor of the “Main Street” building but was unable to make any official announcements as of Thursday afternoon.

On Oct. 25, the state Board of Regents approved spending $1.8 million to buy three pieces of land in the district for the possibility of expanding the UIHC clinic.

“The number of people inquiring about space has increased tremendously from the first of the year,” she said.

Trumbull said she is optimistic additional retailers can be announced in coming months.

30hop restaurant partner Erik Shewmaker said the more than $3 million, 400-seat restaurant has been in the planning stages for quite some time. He believes the urban-industrial dining and drinking establishment modeled after Denver and San Diego restaurants will work well alongside existing dining spots.

“This was the area we were excited about when we first started hearing about the development being that it’s the gateway into the [Cedar Rapids/ Iowa City] Corridor,” he said. “There’s a lot of buzz. Everyone’s really excited about the development.”

To UI sophomore Meghan Horihan, the on-going retail, restaurant, office, and housing development means nothing if people, particularly the younger demographics, don’t know about it.

“It’s just not a location I find myself attracted to,” said Horihan, a former Daily Iowan employee. “It’s just kind of an awkward place. They need to market that area more if they want to get the audience they’re trying to attract.”


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