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Cottages still standing, for now

BY BILL COONEY | APRIL 10, 2015 5:00 AM

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The cottages on South Dubuque Street are still standing, two months after the Iowa City City Council decided to not give them historic-landmark status.

City officials issued demolition permits for the cottages to the properties’ owner, Ted Pacha, in December 2014. Iowa City demolition permits are valid for six months after they’re issued, said Jan Ream, an Iowa City neighborhood and development services official.

“I think that the owner is waiting until the antique store [Suzy’s] is vacated to begin taking them down,” Ream said. “It’s much more cost effective to take down both buildings at once.”

The cottages may not be the only buildings coming down on the block.

Michael Chamberlain, the owner of the Broken Spoke, said he noticed utility crews removing gas meters from 604 S. Dubuque St. at the same time as the cottage previously home to a bookstore.

“These two for sure are coming down,” Chamberlain said. “I’m not sure about the timeline for Suzy’s, because her lease goes until the end of July.”

Craig Carney, who owns Racquet Masters next to the cottages, said that Suzy’s has not closed entirely.

“She was closed for a while, but recently, she has been open for certain hours, just not full-time,” Carney said.

Pacha owns the building Racquet Masters is located in as well; he was unable for comment at the time of publication.

The cottages were originally built more than 150 years ago to serve as working-class housing. In more recent years, they have been home to several Iowa City businesses.

The 614 S. Dubuque St. cottage was demolished in the middle of the night on Dec. 25, 2014, followed by public outcry from the community. After the demolition, a public hearing on the cottages was delayed from Jan. 20 to Feb. 10 by the City Council. The council decided to not grant historic-landmark status to the cottages at its meeting on Feb. 10 following heated arguments from both sides of the issue.

Chamberlin said it’s very unfortunate what has happened to the cottages.

“They’re getting shoved under the rug for this,” he said. “This sets a precedent; this is going to lead to the demolition of this entire block for ‘progress.’ ”

Chamberlain said he believes that “mixed-use” buildings, such as the one planned to go in the location of the cottages, don’t work.

“You put up these buildings with apartments up top, and the storefronts on the bottom remain empty for years,” he said, referring to buildings such as 507 S. Gilbert St. “The City Council is getting rid of businesses that are local, and here for the long haul in order to increase the available tax base with these mixed-use buildings.

“This isn’t some vacant lot that’s getting redeveloped. This is a thriving block in a thriving neighborhood. This doesn’t just affect the business in the cottages, it affects every business in this neighborhood.”


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