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Group out to 'save' Washington Street

BY LILY ABROMEIT | APRIL 03, 2014 5:00 AM

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Iowa City residents may drive down Washington Street, glance at the Brown Bottle or Running Wild and picture the future of those structures — which could drastically change in upcoming years.

For some, these predicted changes are frustrating, and concerned citizens decided to take matters into their own hands by proactively objecting to renderings of proposed construction.

“We believe the people of Iowa City have a right to a hearing of the direction of downtown,” said Rockne Cole, co-head of the Iowa Coalition Against the Shadow. “Essentially, it is a historic area, and we do not believe ultra-modern [is] a good fit for downtown.”

The Iowa Coalition Against the Shadow, a group dedicated to maintaining and preserving historic areas in Iowa City, paired with the Save Washington Street organization to hold a forum for community members to voice their concerns about the project.

Cole said the ultimate concerns lie around creating structures that incorporate as much as the original structures while also fitting into the surrounding area.

The area in question includes the Den, Running Wild, Discerning Eye, the Brown Bottle, and the Jefferson Building.

Many citizens were concerned about renderings of the area, that showed a renovated Jefferson Building next to a six-story glass building on East Washington Street.

Tom Martin, an Iowa City resident, said he attended Wednesday’s meeting specifically to address his apprehensions about the proposed renderings.

“It concerns me that anyone in their right mind would put that kind of structure in our [downtown],” he said.

Cole said the more ideas and opinions shared by the community, the better, because that would lead to greater collaboration on the final project. Additionally, he said, it would also create a building many could vouch for.

“The city is going through change, and sometimes change is painful,” he said. “We don’t want conflict for the sake of conflict … we want to make sure that it’s developed in such a way that it will preserve what we love rather than distract from other buildings downtown.”

Cole said one main concern on the minds of many was the suggested glass structure, because that would take a lot of energy and money to build and maintain.

“The community can’t afford this kind of energy inefficiency,” he said, noting that a glass building would quickly become outdated.

Mike Frantz, owner of Frantz Community Investors, owns the Kresge Building on the south side of the 100 block of East Washington Street, the area under discussion and scrutiny.

Frantz said he attended the meeting to hear concerns from citizens before making any decision about construction on the building.

Additionally, he said the whole focus should be on maintaining historical preservation and embracing the wants and needs of the community.

“[We need] input from the community and to make sure what we do is a collaborative process,” he said. “If we don’t get input from all segments of the community … it sells the community out.”


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