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Coralville City Council approves details of redevelopment project creating ‘gateway’ to the city
City and developer continuing to work through affordability concerns for Gather Iowa project
CORALVILLE — Ten acres at the corner of First Avenue and Second Street in Coralville — a “gateway between the University of Iowa and Coralville” — will include restaurant, retail, commercial and multifamily housing as part of a redevelopment project.
The Coralville City Council on Tuesday approved the site plan for the first addition of the Gather Iowa project by Dallas-based Rael Development Corporation. The council previously approved a rezoning and master development plan to make way for the mixed-use development in July 2022.
A site plan is an opportunity to review specific design elements of the buildings and site, Dave Johnson, the city’s community development director, said in a council memo.
The first addition of the Gather Iowa project includes five lots that will be developed at the same time. The proposed scope, uses, layout and density of the project are consistent with the master plan on file, Johnson said.
The plan also includes “key concepts toward redevelopment,” Johnson said, including pedestrian and bicycle connectivity, network enhancements and aesthetic improvements.
The city continues to work with the developer on addressing affordability concerns as part of the project’s future phases. Concerns have previously been raised about the plan possibly displacing existing minority-owned businesses and the people who live in 34 affordable housing units.
Businesses and buildings in the area have experienced multiple flood events, Johnson said. Wholesale redevelopment — rather than parcel by parcel — is required in the area, according to the city.
“It's been a long time coming,” Mayor Meghann Foster said about the project during Tuesday’s meeting. “This is a very challenging area for a lot of reasons, and we appreciate your work. I appreciate the work our city staff has put in on this, as well.”
The site is in a prime location along the Coralville strip, but there have been challenges around proposed redevelopment of it. City Administrator Kelly Hayworth previously told The Gazette there have been “a lot of efforts” over the last eight to 10 years.
Some of the difficulties include its position in the flood plain, replacing streets and other infrastructure and relocating a utility line that cuts across the site.
Creating a ‘destination’
Graeme Rael, president and CEO of Rael Development Corporation, told the council last year the development group was to “create a destination — a neighborhood within a neighborhood.” He reiterated the intention to create a destination during Tuesday’s meeting.
Rael Development Corporation is working on the plan with Chicago-based BKV Group and local firm Shive-Hattery.
The site plan has information on the buildings and the five different lots making up the 10 acres of land. Rael said the team has worked on planning green space and outdoor space throughout the development.
What are the different pieces of the project?
The first lot, in the northwest area of the land, is 4.37 acres. It will consist of a six story mixed-use building with restaurant, retail and residential. Restaurant and retail will be on the ground floor with 340 residential units on the floors above.
The 11,462 square foot building will wrap around the 622 stall parking structure, with the east side opening up to a courtyard.
The second lot is 0.68 acres and will consist of a one-story building with retail and restaurant space. There will be an outdoor plaza area on the south side of the 5,180 square foot building. The second lot is in the north area of the land.
The third lot, along the northeast, is 1.22 acres and will have a 5,870 square foot commercial building with green space. There also will be space for restaurant and retail.
The fourth and fifth lots will have townhome buildings.
The fourth lot, along the east, is 1.27 acres and will have two townhome buildings totaling 10 units. The fifth lot, along the southwest, is 2.02 acres and will have three townhome buildings totaling 13 units.
The total parking required for the development is 838 stalls, and the applicant is providing 922 stalls, Johnson said. Majority of the parking will be in the form of a parking structure.
Continuing work on affordability
This current site plan and development does not include the sixth lot, which is properties in the southeast corner of the site identified for future development, Johnson said. The developers are working through land entitlement for this part of the development, Johnson added.
The intention is to use this portion of the project to address affordability concerns.
Foster said the city and developer are still working on the details of how these concerns will be addressed, which will come in the later phases of the project.
“There’s some other phases of this plan that will address those concerns that are coming later, but we’re still working through the details,” Foster said.
A possible idea being discussed is to create a mixed-use project with housing and commercial space for local businesses.
Rael Development Corporation is also applying for the state’s workforce housing tax credit program. The city council approved a resolution Tuesday in support of the application and pledging city funds in support of $1,000 per residential unit for up to 348 units.
The developer previously applied in 2021 but was not funded, Deputy City Administrator Ellen Habel said.
Habel said the city is hopeful because the project is more developed this time around but added how this program has gotten more competitive.
Habel said several Coralville projects have received workforce housing tax credits in the past and how these projects have added to the city’s housing supply, which was impacted after the 2008 flood. Habel said the city lost 300 to 400 housing units after the flood.
“There are certainly different levels of affordable housing and a need for different levels of affordable housing,” Habel said. “We have a mix of different neighborhoods and our community plan calls for a mix of housing, and that's what this would be. This could contribute to our mix.”
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