Big plans for Iowa Iron Works site to become The Depot

$17.8-million mixed-use project proposed for NewBo

Ahmann Rendering of the proposed project at the former Iowa Iron Works site.
Ahmann Rendering of the proposed project at the former Iowa Iron Works site.

CEDAR RAPIDS — Transformation in New Bohemia marches ahead on what was once an eyesore of former industrial properties with hard-to-imagine futures.

Ahmann Companies Inc. is proposing a $17.8-million office-residential-retail development called The Depot on the former site of the Iowa Iron Works plant in the 400 block of 12th Avenue SE.

Construction on the project — which features four side-by-side buildings on the 4,8-acre site across 12th Avenue SE from the new Geonetric Inc. building — would start late next summer if all goes well, said Chad Pelley, business development manager and in-house civil engineer for Ahmann Companies.

The Geonetric Inc. building sits on the former brownfield site of the Iowa Steel plant. The Depot will go up behind the NewBo City Market, which occupies part of the now-renovated and former shuttered site of Quality Chef Foods.

Mayor Ron Corbett on Friday credited former Mayor Lee Clancey for her work in the late 1990s to have the city purchase the Iowa Iron Works and Iowa Steel properties.

“It also shows how long it takes to redevelop areas,” Corbett said. “Now we have got to keep pushing and pushing.”

On Tuesday, the City Council is slated to authorize the city manager to negotiate a development agreement with Ahmann Companies for the purchase and redevelopment of the former Iowa Iron Works site.

Ahmann’s Pelley said The Depot’s four buildings will be completed in phases over two to five years, though he said he expected the project could be completed “sooner rather than later.”

“It is ambitious,” Pelley said. “But there is very big optimism. We have a lot of interested ‘end-users’ for a substantial portion of the development.”

In fact, the first of the four buildings is designed for a specific unnamed firm; it will be a “live-work” building, with three floors of space for office and commercial use and a fourth and fifth floor with a single condominium on each floor for the company owners, Pelley said.

He said the three other buildings, all three-story, will feature parking on the first floor, with the plan to convert the first floors to office or commercial use as the demand arises.

The second building will target office tenants or buyers and the third and fourth will provide up to 50 market-rate residential units for purchase or rent, Pelley said.

He said The Depot development will come with an emphasis on gathering and walking areas outside the buildings that tie in with the feel of the New Bohemia district.

“There is a huge interest in the New Bohemia area,” Pelley said. “I think everybody recognizes that. It has this energy and synergy that’s been growing and growing since the flood (of 2008).”

City Manager Jeff Pomeranz said The Depot project is the latest of a number of significant private-sector investments in New Bohemia, such as the Geonetric building and the four-story, mixed-use New Bohemia Station project slated for construction in the spring on the former Brosh Chapel site, 1020 and 1028 Third St. SE.

“This area has exploded in a quiet but very exciting way, and it’s something the community should be very proud of,” Pomeranz said. “… This development by (the Ahmann Companies) is going to really add some of the icing on the cake.”

Ahmann’s Pelley said The Depot’s exterior will feature a wide array of materials, including stone, brick and fiber cement, with the intent of bringing to Cedar Rapids a development “reminiscent of something you’d see in some of the bigger cities.”

“This is one of those projects that doesn’t come along very often,” he said. “To do something for a flood-impacted area such as New Bohemia ... It’s going to be a tremendous asset and a complement to what is already there.”

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