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Proposed apartments on the rise

BY CORY PORTER | DECEMBER 04, 2014 5:00 AM

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Despite being allowed to almost double in height, a new student housing high-rise has seen little controversy.

The City Council voted 7-0 on Tuesday to grant development company CG Hanson Inc. with height bonuses for a 15-story student apartment building at 316 S. Madison St.

An application with the city was filed by 316 Madison LLC, requesting eight stories, as well as seven bonus stories, for the proposed apartment building.

Five of these bonus stories were for meeting student-housing criteria and the final two were for meeting Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design criteria.

Upon completion, the high-end apartment building will be the tallest building in Iowa City’s history and will be full of amenities aimed at student renters.

Even opponents of other proposed high-end, high-rise buildings, such as Rockne Cole of the Iowa Coalition Against the Shadows, said he doesn’t see much controversy with this spot for one simple reason.

“We have never been opposed to height per se, it’s the question of where it occurs,” Cole said.

Cole said the location of the building wouldn’t affect the neighborhood as much as other buildings his group has fought against in the past.

“We have never had concerns with height to the south of Burlington and the Riverfront Crossing District,” Cole said.

City Councilor Susan Mims also said the issue of height will almost certainly be a point of future discussion, but demand is what will drive the desire for apartment buildings such as the 316 Madison to be built.

“It’s certainly something that needs to be considered in terms of where we would locate buildings of that type, but I think … we’re going to see more applications and requests for height bonuses and taller buildings in Riverfront Crossing,” Mims said.

Cole said the construction of this particular project makes sense to him, because the University of Iowa student population will continue to grow.

“[The university is] going to need to find adequate housing for the students, so although I’d continue to encourage developers to do developments within scale of the surrounding area, for that particular location, it’s a lot less problematic,” Cole said.

Affordability is another point of consideration for any future housing construction projects, Mims said, because she has seen more and more requests from people wanting to see more affordable housing near downtown.

“The city is going to have quite a discussion about that in terms of the drive that it’s going to take from the public to finance housing for people of lesser means,” Mims said.

UI Assistant Vice President for Student Life Von Stange, the senior director of Housing & Dining, echoed Cole’s beliefs about the Madison project making sense regarding student population and location.

“My thought is if there’s going to be more housing, certainly that’s a good place to be able to have it,” he said.

Stange isn’t worried about the “competition” of off-campus housing.

“They’re for profit, we are not for profit, so we’re going to do what we do well, which is traditional campus housing, and they’re going do what they do well,” Stange said, “We build 50- to 100-year buildings, and [developers are] building probably 20- to 30-year buildings.”


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