Rally backs South Dubuque cottages


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A crowd of around 20 people gathered the afternoon of Jan. 17 in front of Suzy’s Antiques & Gifts, 610 S. Dubuque St., to push for the preservation of the two remaining cottages on South Dubuque Street.

“There are two cottages left, and we need to save them,” said Alicia Trimble, the executive director at Friends of Historic Preservation, at the rally.

Will Ingles, the owner of the Book Shop, 608 S. Dubuque St., in one of the cottages, attended as well. Susan Hultman, owner of the gift shop, was unable to attend.

The third cottage, 614 S. Dubuque St., which was home to the Moy Yat Ving Tsun Kung Fu Studio and owned by Bryan Pierce, was demolished on Dec. 25 or 26, in the late evening or early morning, Ingles said.

Iowa City officials have deliberated on whether the cottages will be demolished or preserved as historical landmarks since November 2014.

On Jan. 6, the Iowa City City Council decided to hold a public hearing on Tuesday to discuss the potential historical significance of the cottages.

Historian and writer Jeff Biggers, who also spoke at the rally, urged the city leaders and the people of Iowa City to consider its cultural history before making a decision.

“Does history matter?” he said. “If history matters, how do we begin to learn from it and make sure we preserve it?  Not preserve it as a museum piece but as part of a living city, and I think this is what this is about.”

He closed by arguing urban renewal does not have to mean razing old buildings to build new ones.

“Must urban renewal be urban removal?” Biggers said. “Or can urban removal work to have an integrated neighborhood, a district that includes these cottages and includes the wonderful development that is going on?”

Following Biggers, local attorney Rockne Cole, who represents the tenants of the two remaining cottages, Ingles and Hultman, in a lawsuit aimed at property owner Ted Pacha, told the crowd Iowa City had reached a tipping point.

“I think the true measure of a community is not how we act when things are going well, when the coffers are full, but how do address when we have conflict, how do we resolve those as a community, and I think that’s the true measure of a place,” he said.

Cole argued that the two cottages represent Iowa City’s long history as a place of ideas, writers, bookstore owners, and antique-shop owners, noting the two shops in the cottages.

“That is what makes this place unique, is the culture we’ve been able to bring here,” Cole said.  “And I think the saddest thing about what’s happening here is that there is a way that we can promote growth and allow the owners of these cottages to have economic development and preserve [history].”

Cole is representing both cottage owners in a lawsuit requesting an injunction. The deadline for Pacha’s attorney to file a counter brief to Cole’s suit is today. Pacha declined The Daily Iowan’s request for comment.

Cole closed his speech by urging participants to continue their support for the cottages by attending any future legal proceedings or city meetings.

“If we stick together and we work together to try to find solutions, we can address these problems, and we can really address and grow this community without destruction,” Cole said.

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