Officials with New Pioneer Co-op have been eager to expand the Iowa City store's presence and a renewed partnership with 4 Zero 4 Development could see their goal come to fruition.
“We’ve been working actively on this for the last five years,” said Matt Hartz, New Pioneer general manager of general relocation efforts.
Intentions to relocate the Iowa City store or open a second location were announced in a letter to co-op members on the store’s website. Pending member approval, the new location would be included in a multiple-story development built above the parking lot of Robert A. Lee Recreation Center. Members have until the end of December to vote.
The proposed project would provide New Pioneer with 10,000 square feet of retail space that would include deli seating, classroom space and 60 to 80 parking spaces. The development could be at most six stories tall, with New Pioneer located on the first floor and potential residential space above. A letter to members said it could take two to three years to complete.
Members will receive information about the development in the mail and a ballot to vote on the proposed project. Hartz said member approval will not guarantee the project will happen. The proposed project would need Iowa City Council approval and investment from the developer. Hartz said the developer should submit an official proposal to the city within a week.
New Pioneer previously worked with 4 Zero 4 when the development group, that includes developer Jake Christensen, former University of Iowa football player Tim Dwight and Justin Doyle, proposed an eight-story building along Gilbert and College Street that included New Pioneer as its anchor store. Iowa City City Council ultimately selected local developer Marc Moen’s The Chauncey proposal.
Hartz said New Pioneer forged several relationships through the Gilbert and College Street development process that have remained including 4 Zero 4 but also with Ryan Companies, which included the store in its proposal. Ryan Companies is working with New Pioneer on its third location in Cedar Rapids, which was announced in October.
Christensen, also a developer at Des Moines-based Christensen Development, said they were disappointed when their plan wasn't selected but enjoyed working with New Pioneer.
“We never really lost contact after that,” Christensen said. “We just continued working with them on locating an alternative [space].”
Jeff Davidson, city director of planning and community development, said the proposed land is zoned as public space and would have to be rezoned as commercial for development plans to move forward. Davidson said the developers approached the city about purchasing air space above the parking lot to develop. He said the council has to decide if they want to sell the space and have city staff prepare a development agreement. A 30-day period would follow where anyone could make comments or suggest alternative development plans before it would go to a vote.
New Pioneer officials say its likely they will rent the property from the developer for no longer than 10 years with the possibility of buying the property at the end of the lease to give the store time to build cash reserves.
Hartz said the existing Iowa City store has been located at 22 S. Van Buren St. since the 1980s and co-op members have remained supportive of relocating the Iowa City store while remaining in the downtown area.“We’re optimistic about the future of New Pi in Iowa City and whether our path leads to a relocation of the current store or the current store is meant to stay where it’s at and we find a second location, we’re still going to be positioned well to serve our community,” Hartz said.