NewBo apartments to embrace Cedar Rapids' industrial past

Proposed Art Tech Village gets an updated look

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Art Tech Village, an apartment and retail complex proposed for the New Bohemia District, has a new look intended to match Cedar Rapids’s industrial history with its potential entrepreneurial future.

Hatch Development Group out of Des Moines first proposed the project last year, but has overhauled the look of the building. Jack Hatch, principal of Hatch Development, said the new design will mirror the industrial plants and factories that surround Cedar Rapids.

“That’s what this city is. ... That’s the key, embracing what you have,” Hatch said in an interview with The Gazette.

Renderings show exterior pipes, a rooftop water tower and metal around the outside. A large metal cylinder will sit on one corner and house a stairway and elevator.

The design integrates shipping containers that will serve as entrances and allude to a future project Hatch Development has planned for the NewBo neighborhood.

Art Tech previously would have included two buildings constructed on either side of the 16th Avenue SE extension.

The new design calls for Art Tech to be a single, three-sided building with four stories on the southeast side of 16th Avenue and courtyard in the middle. A bike path will run through the building and the courtyard.

A city sewer line, Hatch said, runs directly underneath the Art Tech site, making it difficult to build on.

“Instead of breaking it up and having two buildings, we talked about creating a portal, embracing it, and (riders) bike right through it,” the former state senator said.

Art Tech’s first floor will be reserved for about 34,000 square feet of retail or office space. No commercial tenants have been signed.

The top three floors, about a combined 120,000 square feet, will have a total of 107 apartments, including 66 one-bedroom units, 14 two-bedroom units and three executive suits.

Twenty-four units will be studios intended for short-term use by entrepreneurs, such as those participating in the nearby Iowa Startup Accelerator. Two co-working spaces and a fitness center also are planned for residents’ use.

“The project really is consistent with the type of mixed-use facility for that area,” Cedar Rapids Community Development Director Jennifer Pratt said. “With all of our housing projects in the NewBo area, they get rented or purchased very quickly, so there’s clearly a demonstrated market for” housing.

Rent prices for the apartments have not been determined.

“The way we want to position ourselves, rent-wise, is we want to be in the middle of the market,” said Dijana Mihajlovic, principal for Kntxt Group in Des Moines, which designed Art Tech.

The project will cost about $25 million to build, Hatch said. He and his business partners met with potential investors this week and will seek some incentives.

Construction, Hatch said, would not begin until spring 2018, after the extension of 16th Avenue is finished.

Art Tech will sit directly southeast of the Geonetric building, which houses that company as well as not-for-profit NewBoCo and the Iowa Startup Accelerator.

Eric Engelmann, NewBoCo’s executive director and co-founder of Geonetric, has advocated for nearby housing suitable for entrepreneurs. Startup founders who come from outside Cedar Rapids need a place to live, but often only on a temporary basis. In ideal terms, the space for rent would be furnished, cheap and close to where they have to work.

If it’s simple for entrepreneurs to find a place to live, Engelmann said, the hope is they’ll have more reason to stay in the city.

“The goal will be that they build their business here, and part of that is that they have an easy way to get housing,” he said.

Engelmann and his business partner in Geonetric, Ben Dillon, own the land that Art Tech will occupy through a separate company.

Even though the Art Tech building will be surrounded by a number of brick structures in NewBo, the developers believe it fits with the context of Cedar Rapids. Cargill, for example, operates a corn milling plant just blocks away.

“If you only look at it from one neighbor’s perspective, yes, it’s out of place,” Hatch said. “But Cedar Rapids isn’t that big. So, you look at it from the full city’s perspective and it’s a building that celebrates Cedar Rapids’ history and its potential and its future.”

Dale Todd, vice president of development for the Hatch Development Group, said Art Tech would be “a game changer” for NewBo.

“We always wanted to create the exception, the building that was going to drive people to think differently and venture to different places of the neighborhood,” Todd said.

Engelmann agreed and said the development group was pushing for something “unique.”

“I don’t want this one to look like a typical new construction building. This one is going to speak to what we’re doing” in NewBo, he said.

Hatch and city staff have discussed the construction of a public parking ramp behind Art Tech, but no decisions have been made.

Pratt said she expects staff to work with Hatch on a development agreement this fall, with it coming before City Council afterward.

“I don’t mind saying this: The reason why I’m choosing Cedar Rapids to build instead of Des Moines is because Cedar Rapids has a better environment for builders. It invites us,” Hatch said.

l Comments: (319) 398-8366; matthew.patane@thegazette.com

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