Developers consider another high-rise project near downtown Iowa City

Details sketchy, but project would likely be a mixed-use plan

Gregg Hennigan
Published: September 13 2013 | 11:09 am - Updated: 28 March 2014 | 8:24 pm in
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Another high-rise building may be on downtown Iowa City’s horizon, although details are sketchy at this point.

Hieronymus Square Associates, which is made up of local developers, has a couple of concepts for land at 301 S. Dubuque St., which is on the southwest corner of the intersection of Dubuque and Burlington streets.

The ideas include a mixed-use building with commercial, residential and office space, said Kevin Digmann, a partner in Hieronymus Square Associates. He said they were not ready to make more details public, but he did suggest it would be a tall building while also stressing nothing was guaranteed at this point.

“I think, obviously, the location is great,” he said. “Everything comes down to seeing if you can make the numbers work. High-rise construction is very expensive to do.”

His group knows that well, with multiple proposals in the past several years for high-rises on the same block failing to materialize.

Before moving forward with more planning, the developers need to purchase some land from the city of Iowa City. The project site includes land owned by the developers where the Mod Pod Inc. Real Estate building is, plus a chunk of city-owned property.

Hieronymus Square Associates has offered $670,000, but by law the city must seek proposals from any other interested parties first.

On Sept. 17, the City Council is to vote on a resolution that establishes that process and also indicates the city will accept Hieronymus Square’s offer if another viable one does not surface. The $670,000 is the same as the property's appraised value, said Jeff Davidson, Iowa City’s director of planning and community development.

The property is in the Riverfront Crossings District, an area south of downtown where city officials want to see significant private and public redevelopment. They also are pushing for multi-story mixed-used buildings in an around downtown.

Developer Marc Moen has one such building going up on the Pedestrian Mall and is negotiating an agreement with the city for another one east of downtown. Each has generated controversy.

The Hieronymus Square project fits with the city’s vision, Davidson said.

“We’re hoping for an exciting, high-density, high-rise-type project,” he said.

Davidson said city officials have been shown a couple of concepts that align with that hope, but no formal application has been submitted.

If the developers ask for financial assistance from the city, the city would have more input on what the project includes. They have indicated that they would seek incentives for a project of a certain scope, like a high-rise, Davidson said.

Digmann said they need to get the land under control before spending more money designing the project.

The Hieronymus Square members have been down this road before on the same block. One group of them several years ago proposed a high-rise building for the west side of the block. Another had plans for a portion of the same property being discussed now. They even merged their ideas at one point, but nothing has been built.

Digmann said they are still interested in a hotel project for the northwest corner of the block, but it’s a matter of the numbers working out.

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