Iowa City residents concerned about the future of a development east of downtown are organizing in hopes of stopping or altering the construction of a 20-story tower at the corner of Gilbert and College Streets.
About 50 people showed up Modnay night for the second meeting of the Iowa Coalition Against the Shadow at the Iowa City Public Library. Organizers hoped to divide people into five constituencies to tackle the group’s issues with the development, dubbed The Chauncey.
The dispute over the structure follows a 5-1 vote by the Iowa City Council earlier this month to negotiate a development agreement with the building’s developer, Marc Moen. The $53.8 million high-rise, as originally proposed by Moen, would include two movie theaters, a bowling alley and cafe, a 35-room hotel, two floors of office space and 12 floors of residential units. Moen also requested $13.5 million in tax increment financing to cover 25 percent of the project’s cost.
However, the council has not yet negotiated a development agreement, and the plot of land still needs to be rezoned, and some details of the project could change, meaning members of the group will have a chance to voice their concerns to the council.
Though those in the Iowa Coalition Against the Shadow expressed various reasons for opposing the structure, Jon Fogarty, one of the organizers of the Iowa Coalition Against the Shadow, said the group primarily will focus on the scale and sight of the building, as well as ensuring there is more affordable housing, improving the environmental efficiency of the building, asking questions about anchor tenants and arguing that The Chauncey would not be a financially responsible investment of taxpayer dollars when compared with the council’s other options.
Fogarty and Rockne Cole, a co-chair of the coalition, told those assembled that they don’t want the group’s mission’s tone to be negative.
“This is about four specific things and if you just want to be against something that meeting is out the door and somewhere else,” Fogarty said. “I don’t want to be pushing people against something, I’m for something. I think as a community we have a healthy vision for what we all want in our space and that particular space.”
Fogarty, who said his biggest issue is the way money is being spent for the project, said he is looking into whether The Chauncey will cost taxpayers somewhere around $4 million because the building might not bring in enough money to pay off the tax incremented financing.
John Yapp, director of transportation for Iowa City and the city’s point person on the project, said The Chauncey will wind up being the best financial choice of the city’s top three options, paying off the requested TIF in around 20 years and bringing back the most money — $9.3 million — to the city.
Yapp also said the city asked the top three developers to produce a shadow study, which determined all of the buildings would have cast some kind of shadow over the area.