UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS — A local developer is giving away a vintage house for free to anyone who wants it, but just like any offer that sounds too good to be true there’s a catch.
Anyone who takes the house must pay to have it moved off the nearly 4-acre lot at 901 Melrose Ave. to make way for University Heights’ new Courtyard by Marriott hotel. Developer Greg Stiltner said the cost of jacking up the house and moving it just across the lot could be between $50,000 and $75,000.
“We do need to move it out of there,” he said. “We don’t want to necessarily be a roadblock for someone who wants it or for someone who would like the material.”
The developer, operating under University Lake Partners II LLC, purchased the property in December for $2.5 million. The land is within walking distance of Kinnick Stadium and the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
Stiltner said he hopes to break ground sometime in the next few months on the 140-room hotel, with work expected to take about a year.
He said the house would be demolished if someone doesn’t move it or salvage it.
“If anybody wants to come and move it, than they can have at it. We just don’t have any use for it right now,” Stiltner said, adding that he thinks the home would have to be brought up code if it were moved.
Dr. Michael Flaum, who has been owner of the home for 21 years, said he could track previous owners back to 1890, though it’s unclear exactly when it was built.
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The house, which the Johnson County Assessor’s Office values at $209,300, is listed at 1,980 square feet with three bedrooms and one-and-a-half bathrooms. It still has some original features, Flaum believes, including many of the windows.
He bought the home from owners who had lived there since the 1950s. The property had a working barn and came with four horses and 22 sheep.
“This is one of the most special homes in the world,” Flaum said. “We always used to walk by this house and my wife used to say — this is 20-plus years ago — ‘Boy, if that house ever became available, wouldn’t that be great?’ And then it did, and so we jumped on it.”
Flaum said it was a difficult decision to leave the home but ultimately felt he had a number of personal reasons. Among them, he said, is his upcoming retirement from the UI Hospitals.
“It just felt like I had just a lot of history here and maybe it was time to do something new,” Flaum said. “This is truly a special place. It’s just a gorgeous, beautiful old house.”
Despite his decision to move out next month, Flaum said he hopes people involved can find the right person who maybe already has some land available for the house. He pointed to wooden floors, a wood-burning stove fireplace and built-in bookshelves as attractive features.
“We just put a lot of love into this house and so it’s kind of difficult to see it just bulldozed,” Flaum said. “Bottom line is I would just hope someone could enjoy it the way we have and that would entail moving it. And moving it is not a small job.”
If anyone is interested in moving the home, Stiltner said to contact him at 319-631-1803.
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