Congregation supports sale of University Heights church

City Council majority opposes planned development for site

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UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS — The congregation of St. Andrew Presbyterian Church has voted in favor of selling the church property, 1300 Melrose Ave., to a developer who wants to build condominiums there.

About 65 percent of the 367 ballots cast Sunday were in support of the sale.

During a brief debate before the vote, congregants opposed to the resolution cited concerns related to safety, funding, convenience and the necessity of building a new facility. Some said they were concerned that those with limited transportation wouldn’t have as much access to the new location on Camp Cardinal Road.

Proponents countered that a new church would accommodate the growing congregation and alleviate parking problems. They said the congregation needed to do what would be best for its future members.

“I know it’s been a tough time for the congregation,” the Rev. Matt Paul said. “I’ve only been here for a year and a half, but they have grappled with this for four years, and that’s a long time to be in the holding pattern, if you will.”

Paul said the deal is subject to approval by the Presbytery of East Iowa. If that happens, the 5.3-acre church property will be sold to developer Jeff Maxwell, who has offered to buy it for $4.3 million. He intends to construct a $44.9 million development called One University Place, with 69 condominiums and two buildings of commercial space.

But to get the project built on the Melrose site, Maxwell will still need to win over the University Heights City Council. Though the project had support from three members of the five-person council before last year’s election, a majority of the current council now opposes it.

Member Rosanne Hopson said she’s been against the development since Maxwell asked the council for tax increment financing incentives to help pay for it.

“This is a private development for a private gain, and I’m just philosophically opposed to all of that,” Hopson said.

Maxwell did not immediately respond to a phone message Sunday, but he previously told The Gazette he would be willing to work with the City Council to bring the project to fruition.

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