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HIAWATHA - The Hiawatha City Council has approved a $72 million mixed-use project - hailed by the designer as the biggest private investment in the city's history.
The council on Wednesday also approved a five-year, $890,000 tax increment financing agreement for Hiawatha Midtown, designed by Keith Billick of Side by Side in Cedar Rapids.
The development is planned for 155 Robins Rd., at Center Point Road, Billick said.
Groundbreaking is anticipated this fall, with a build-out of up to four years.
The project's footprint calls for seven-and-a-half acres, developed in four phases, that will include three patio homes, 58 townhouses, 203 apartments, 18 condominiums, 10 live/work spaces and 66 senior living units as well as some 36,300 square feet of commercial, retail and entertainment space.
Another five acres will be devoted to open space that will connect with nearby bike trails and a park.
City Council member Aime Wichtendahl spoke to the project's unprecedented scope.
'I think it's probably one of the largest projects that's every been attempted by the community,” she said.
Wichtendahl said the city's 2017 completion of Village Center Intersection - where North Center Point Road, Emmons Street and Robins Road meet - marked a key step toward the Side by Side project.
'That all had to be done. Without that, we couldn't really lean into the development of the downtown area,” she said.
No leasing agent has been signed for the project, Billick said by phone Thursday. He hopes for retailers and restaurants that 'are unique to Hiawatha and Eastern Iowa.”
Billick, who said this is his first project 'of this magnitude and this complexity,” moved to Cedar Rapids in 2015, after running a landscape architecture business in Denver. He started Side by Side in Cedar Rapids in 2016.
Wichtendahl noted Billick's lack of development experience but said members of the Hiawatha City Council were impressed with his proposal. He was selected from three prospective developers.
'They really came to the council with a lot of energy and a lot of drive and had done a lot of their homework,” Wichtendahl said. 'They did a little swinging for the fences on the project.”
'Hiawatha Midtown,” Billick said in a news release announcing the project, 'has the potential to connect a growing number of residents with small and (mid-sized) businesses that make a big impact on the local economy.”
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Gazette reporter Mitchell Schmidt contributed to this article.