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Planning and Zoning Commission defers cottage decision

BY RACHEL GREEN | NOVEMBER 21, 2014 5:00 AM

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A group of Iowa City cottages will remain standing pending a decision by the Iowa City Planning and Zoning Commission.

The three cottages were built in the mid-19th century and sit along South Dubuque Street. Some in the community are calling for the buildings to be preserved, while others are calling for them to be demolished.

“These cottages are part of the story of Iowa City,” said Alicia Trimble, the director of Friends of Historic Preservation. “These cottages are where the people who made Iowa City lived. [The cottages] influenced the lives of these people.”

The Planning and Zoning Commission met Thursday to discuss a rezoning plan for the area.

The commission decided to defer the decision to rezone the area until its next meeting because the members want more time to weigh the different possibilities.

In the meantime, they hope to have a second structural engineer inspect the properties, because they are concerned about the existing conditions of the structure.

President of VJ Engineering Jim Jacob, who conducted an inspection on the cottages, said the buildings are structurally unsound and therefore cannot be preserved.

In addition to the structure, Jacob said he also noticed walls splitting apart, bricks and mortar deteriorating, and rubble developing underground.

If the rezoning is approved, a mixed residential and retail building will be built on the 600 block of South Dubuque Street.

Many working-class homes, such as the three on South Dubuque Street, have not been preserved before because they are not designated historic buildings.

The change would be from a community commercial zone and intensive commercial zone to a Riverfront Crossings-Central Crossing zone.

“It says in the Comprehensive Plan that preserving these structures is a goal,” Trimble said. “Moving the buildings is not the goal. The plan doesn’t say it’s OK to demolish [the buildings] as long as they’re documented.”

The cottages, aside from having historic value, house three businesses: Suzy’s Antiques and Gifts, the Book Shop, and Moy Yat Ving Tsun Kung Fu Academy.

Ted Pacha, who owns the property, said he wants to see the buildings go to the city or the Friends of Historic Preservation.

“Because of health issues, specifically cancer I have been battling for four years, I decided to look at what the future of this property will be, so this property won’t be a burden on my family,” Pacha said.

If the existing structures were demolished, a new multiuse building, which would include retail shops and residential space, would take its place.

Wade Squires, lead architect at Fusion Architects, said while the new building design is not “set in stone,” it would be a C-shaped building with mixed occupancy.

Squires also said the building would take up the entire block.

“It will have a townhouse kind of feel, like you would find in Chicago or Washington, D.C,” he said.


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