One Park Place developer: 'We're still plugging away'

Cedar Rapids officials remain committed to 28-story high rise project

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Nearly two months after critical details about the project were expected, Cedar Rapids officials and a developer say they remain committed to a high-profile high rise selected in May 2016 to ascend from one of the last open city owned parcels downtown.

Elected officials and city staff, as well as the developer, say One Park Place is progressing, but the $103 million, 28-story structure slated for First Street SE by the Paramount Theatre is just very large and extremely complicated.

“We are still moving forward; we’re still plugging away,” said Dave Zahradnik, a principal with Neumann Monson Architects and partner with Jesse Allen on One Park Place. “The independent market studies are complete. We are just waiting for the bank to get us the appraisal back so the lenders can compete for loans. Obviously, we would like to move faster.”

time frame uncertain

Completing the city’s checklist of details could take another month or two, but since some of the information is out of their hands the time frame is not certain, he said.

Cedar Rapids City Council selected One Park Place over two-other high rise proposals last year, but because $20 million in public subsidies are expected, the council ordered a feasibility study, which itself came in three months after deadline. City staff have proposed a $5 million payment to the developers upon project completion, estimated in 2020, and $15.5 million reimbursed through tax rebates over 20 years.

Based on recommendations in the feasibility study, which declared One Park Place financially viable, City Council on Dec. 6 requested the developer provide additional market studies on housing, hotel demand and parking, as well as proof of loans.

City staff said 90 to 120 days to provide the information was reasonable, or by early April, and Allen said in February the information would be submitted in March. The City Council is waiting for the information before deciding whether to sign off on subsidies, which in turn is the last big hurdle before construction can begin.

City Council member Kris Gulick is among those who’ve spoken to staff about the status of One Park Place. He had urged staff in December to set a deadline to keep the project moving forward and avoid losing another construction season.

This week, Gulick said if this project fell apart another developer wouldn’t be able to get started until next year, so he prefers to stay the course unless the developers say they can’t get financing. Proof of financing is his primary concern, he said.

“City staff meet with the developer on a regular basis,” Gulick said. “I think they are making progress. ... Large projects are like this. They are complicated and it takes time to get it done.”

Complex project

In addition to its scale, One Park Place is complicated for other reasons. Key tenants, such as a hotel and grocery store, will own their space, so not only do Allen and Zahradnik need to prove their financing, they must also prove financing of tenants, he said.

“We gave them a time frame and I think it was just a little tight,” said Scott Olson, a member of the City Council. “It’s very complex. ... As long as they are making progress and giving updates, we will give them time.”

The One Park Place proposal calls for restaurants on the first and 28th floors, a grocery store on the first floor, 744 parking spaces over six levels, 110 hotel rooms, 60 apartments, 30 condominiums and a public terrace on the 10th floor.

Zahradnik said there may be shuffling of the mix of space for office, apartments, condos and hotel, but core components remain the same. He said they’ve also been in discussions about whether the hotel will be a brand name or a boutique, akin to hotelVetro in Iowa City.

“How much office space versus residential still is in the works,” Zahradnik said. “A big part will be where the hotel lands and how many rooms.”

It is not unusual for large projects such as One Park Place, to hit snags. For example, in Des Moines, Nelson Construction & Development’s plan called Miesblock has been scaled back twice from 18 to 12 to eight or nine stories and relocated from one downtown location to another since getting the green light in June 2015, the Des Moines Register has reported. Construction is supposed to begin this summer.

“It’s interesting to see the length of time these larger projects take,” said Jennifer Pratt, Cedar Rapids community development director.

One Park Place would be the tallest building in downtown Cedar Rapids, and one of the largest projects city staff have worked on, she said.

l Comments: (319) 339-3177; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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