$7M rental housing project proposed for Iowa City

Project would be one of the first in the re-envisioned Riverfront Crossings

Gregg Hennigan
Published: February 14 2013 | 5:55 pm - Updated: 28 March 2014 | 11:29 am in
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IOWA CITY – Another project has been proposed for the area south of downtown that Iowa City officials have targeted for redevelopment.

A development group going by 4 Zero 4 wants to build a $7 million three-story building that has up to 44 rental units at 700 S. Dubuque St. That’s four blocks from downtown and is in the heart of the 278-acre area known as Riverfront Crossings.

A master plan completed last fall calls for the neighborhood to take on more of an urban feel with a large park, enhanced streetscapes and new housing, retail stores and offices.

The City Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a resolution in support of 4 Zero 4’s application for a $3 million state grant to help fund what it is being called SoBu Lofts. SoBu stands for south of Burlington Street, the boundary between downtown Iowa City and Riverfront Crossings.

It would be one of the first projects in the re-envisioned Riverfront Crossings, and city officials believe it could jump-start other redevelopment, said David Purdy, a community development planner for the city.

“Everyone here at the city is very excited about submitting this application to the state,” he said.

4 Zero 4 is made up of Des Moines-based developer Jake Christensen, former Iowa football player Tim Dwight and Justin Doyle. Their plan calls for 16 one-bedroom lofts, 16 efficiency lofts and 12 units that have space for someone to live in and to operate a business.

Those “live/work” lofts bring a different dimension to the project, said Steve Long, Iowa City’s community development coordinator.

“It’s kind of a newer concept for Iowa City,” he said. “It’s done in other parts of the country.”

Twenty-three of the units would be reserved for people making 80 percent of the area’s median income, which is $48,850 annually for a household of two, according to the city.

The project also would have environmentally friendly features, including solar power and geothermal energy, that should give it about 40 percent of a normal building’s carbon footprint, said Christensen.

The state grant from the Iowa Economic Development Authority is needed to help support those green features, the affordable housing aimed at young professionals and to mitigate the risk of being one of the first projects in Riverfront Crossings, he said.

But he’s excited about the potential for the area and drew a comparison between a planned riverfront park and Gray’s Lake south of downtown Des Moines.

“I think the vision for Riverfront Crossings is excellent, and the opportunity for the urban park … is just amazing,” he said.

If the grant is awarded, construction would start this summer and be finished in 10 months, Christensen said. If not, the developers would need to keep working on the project and wait until the market is right, he said.

SoBu Lofts was picked for city support over another proposal because of its readiness to proceed, emphasis on sustainability and it would fill a need with its affordable housing, according to city staff. The city would not need to provide any financial support, Purdy said.

4 Zero 4 was passed over by the city last month in a bid to develop the corner of Gilbert and College streets, but this is a different project.

The property for the new project is owned by a corporation run by Dwight, according to city and state records. It includes a building that currently is home to a dance studio.

Other potential projects for Riverfront Crossings include two hotels in one building, a new University of Iowa School of Music and a white-water rafting course on the Iowa River.

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