Iowa City prepares TIF district in area set for redevelopment

Aerial photo Iowa City, including the Iowa River, the Old Capitol and University of Iowa campus, Burlington Street bridg
Aerial photo Iowa City, including the Iowa River, the Old Capitol and University of Iowa campus, Burlington Street bridge and downtown Iowa City, (Sourcemedia 2006)

IOWA CITY — The city is taking steps toward establishing a tax increment financing district for an area of town slated for redevelopment.

The proposal is related to the Riverfront Crossings District south of downtown, which the city wants to turn into a dense, walkable neighborhood with public and private projects.

When officials first started discussing the idea two years ago, the area was to be bordered by Burlington Street to the north, Highway 6 to the south, Gilbert Street to the east and the Iowa River to the west.

But they have since expanded it across the river, and that’s where the proposed TIF district would be. It would cover a mostly north-south strip of 44 acres along Riverside Drive from Myrtle Drive on the north and Highway 1 on the south.

On Oct. 18, the City Council is expected to hold a public hearing and vote on an urban renewal plan for the area, which is the first step in establishing the TIF district.

The item is on the agenda for the council’s Tuesday meeting, but the public hearing will be continued because of a timing issue. The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission has recommended the council adopt the plan.

Under a TIF agreement, a landowner typically keeps for a period of time the difference, or increment, between the existing property taxes and the amount generated by the redeveloped land.

Wendy Ford, Iowa City’s economic development coordinator, said that as staff started working on the Riverfront Crossings plan, it became clear that ignoring the west side of the river while making improvements to the east would be a mistake.

A plan for a TIF district on the east side is forthcoming, she said, but the first project for Riverfront Crossings is expected to be on the west side, so they’re starting over there with the TIF.

She said she couldn’t go into details on the project except to say it’s a hotel. City Council candidate Raj Patel has said his family plans to build a Hampton Inn by Hilton on Riverside Drive.

The council on Tuesday is to hold a public hearing and vote on a resolution to adopt a development plan for another portion of Riverfront Crossings.

The city has spent more than a year working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and consultants on a plan for 80 acres on the southern part of the district. Iowa City was one of just five communities nationwide to get grants for the work.The plan calls for a pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use neighborhood that includes a riverfront park.

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