Northside could see new business

BY ALEX HANAFAN | JUNE 17, 2014 5:00 AM

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A new restaurant may take over the empty store space at the intersection of Linn and Market Streets.

The Iowa City Planning and Zoning Commission will review a proposition Thursday to rezone 203 N. Linn St. — the former location of the Haunted Bookshop — to allow for a restaurant.

The space became vacant after the North Side staple moved down the block in December to 219 N. Gilbert St., an 1847 building known as the Wentz-Stach House.

Local contractor Michael Hodge requested the zoning change.

The Iowa City City Council will review the proposal if the zoning committee approves it.

Jeff Davidson, the director of City Planning and Community Development, said that the main barrier is the type of rezoning, which would allow for a higher parking requirement for a restaurant.

“From the city’s perspective, we are happy to see the space reoccupied; I think that is an indication of the economic viability of the North Side Marketplace,” Davidson said.

At the time, the building has no off-street parking available.

The 4,000 square feet property would be rezoned from a central business service zone to a central business support zone. The zoning change will allow great flexibility to fill the vacant space on the first floor.

Kevin Digmann of Hodge Construction said the project would require little construction to the lower level for a restaurant, but the main conflict with the city is an area for parking.

“That’s all that’s going on for now,” he said.

A new restaurant would fit in with the overall trend from the past 10 years.

The area has seen the addition of new restaurants, a wine & cheese bar, apartments, and retail space.

Tom Kaut, a real-estate agent and developer at Lepic-Kroeger Realtors, moved forward with his plans last September for a new residential and commercial building on a North Linn Street site.

Twelve apartment units and 2,000 square feet of first-floor commercial space will be built in that area. The estimated cost is $3 million to $4 million.

Some surrounding businesses believe a restaurant would prosper in that location.

High Ground manager Wesley Ward said he thinks a restaurant would grow the North Side area.

“A restaurant could be beneficial to surrounding businesses … I don’t think it would necessarily do harm,” Ward said.

Along with a possible zone change, the committee will decide on a request to designate the property as a historic landmark.

Haunted Bookshop owner Nialle Sylvan said one reason she moved locations was for a more permanent home, as well as its having been named a historic landmark.

“That’s why we bought the building in the first place,” Sylvan said.

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