116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY – The fire in downtown Iowa City Saturday could, in an unfortunate way, create some of the redevelopment opportunities city officials desire, although it's too early to know what will happen.
It's no secret, however, that city and downtown representatives want to see changes downtown, specifically the addition of more retailers, office space and owner-occupied housing.
And it's rare for a downtown property to sit empty with no building on it, which could soon be the case in a couple of locations.
The four-alarm fire, reported at 2:16 a.m., damaged several buildings. One apartment resident was treated at the scene, but there were no other injuries.
The most extensive damage was to the Bruegger's Bagels building, 225 Iowa Ave., and the Van Patten House, 9 S. Linn St. There was water and smoke damage to 13 S. Linn Street, 219-221 Iowa Avenue and 255 Iowa Avenue, according to the Iowa City Fire Department.
The Bruegger's building, which also had apartments, lost its roof and was gutted by the fire.
The roof of the Van Patten House is gone, and there is fire damage on the second floor and water damage throughout, said owner Kevin Monson, president of Neumann Monson Architects.
He said it is unclear whether the building, which dates to 1874 and is on the National Register of Historic Places, can be saved.
He'd like to restore it to its historic character but said it is too early to say if the fire instead created a redevelopment opportunity along the lines of what some people want.
“I really don't want to think about that yet until I know what the outcome of the house is,” Monson said. “That's a future discussion.”
Confluence, an architecture and design firm, had just moved out at the beginning of September, he said. The building also had three apartments, all of which were rented.
Bricks and other pieces of charred debris were still strewn around the Bruegger's building Monday afternoon. Bruegger's is waiting to hear more from local fire officials before deciding its future at the location, company spokeswoman Tracy Aiello said.
The company leases the property. The owner is Net Lease Funding 2005 LP, according to property records. Attempts to contact the company were unsuccessful.
Iowa City-based Keystone Property Management oversees the property. A representative from Keystone said he had not talked to the owners about the future of the site. A message relayed to the owners was not immediately returned Monday.
Jeff Davidson, Iowa City's planning and community development director, said it will be up to the property owners to decide what to do moving forward. But he said the city would help with redevelopment ideas if called upon.
The city has even shown a willingness to provide financial assistance to certain downtown projects, like the recent $250,000 grant to developer Marc Moen, who wants to turn the former Vito's bar into retail and office space.
“If we can get office space, if we can get fine arts venues, if we can get things of that nature that become successful if we're involved in a financial partnership, then let's have that discussion,” Davidson said.
There is precedent for a downtown Iowa City fire creating development opportunities.
After a major fire in 1999, Moen built Whiteway 2000, a seven-story building with a restaurant and upscale apartments at 210-212 S. Clinton Street.
Prairie Lights Books moved into its current home at 15 S. Dubuque St. in the early 1980s following a fire that destroyed the previous building at the site.
The cause, origin and damage estimates from this past Saturday's fire remain under investigation, Fire Marshall John Grier said.
Grier expected to meet with the insurance adjuster for Bruegger's on Monday. Work will then begin on removing debris, which will help with the investigation, he said.
SourceMedia Group's John McGlothlen contributed to this story.