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Developer to pitch 8-story student housing complex in Iowa City's Riverfront Crossings

178-unit complex would be built along Ralston Creek

A street-level photo-illustration shows how Capstone Collegiate Communities’ proposed eight-story, 178-unit housing complex would look facing west from the intersection of East Prentiss and South Gilbert streets. (City of Iowa City)
A street-level photo-illustration shows how Capstone Collegiate Communities’ proposed eight-story, 178-unit housing complex would look facing west from the intersection of East Prentiss and South Gilbert streets. (City of Iowa City)

A Birmingham, Ala., developer will propose an eight-story, 178-unit student housing complex in Iowa City’s Riverfront Crossings district at Thursday’s planning and zoning commission meeting.

Representatives of Capstone Collegiate Communities plan to ask the commission to rezone the 1.6-acre proposed project site, bordered by East Prentiss and South Gilbert streets, to the district’s Central Crossings subdistrict, which allows for residential uses.

The developer also will seek a modification to the city’s Riverfront Crossing regulating plan, putting all the property’s three parcels in the Central Crossings subdistrict so, with officials’ permission, the building could have up to eight floors.

The East Prentiss development calls for five upper floors with 178 residential units, averaging 780 square feet, and totaling 400 beds, plus a clubroom and fitness area, and an on-site leasing office. The three lower floors would consist of 259 parking spaces.

A key component of the project also calls for Capstone to make enhancements along the east bank of Ralston Creek, which it plans to be connect via pedestrian walkway to its complex.

The enhancements include removing invasive trees and planting new ones, stabilizing the stream bank with a layer of rocks along the shoreline and dedicating temporary easements so Prentiss Street Bridge can be reconstructed.

In planning documents, city staff recommended the Ralston Creek enhancements as a condition for approving the project site’s rezoning.

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“The Riverfront Crossings master plan discusses some possibilities for improving Ralston Creek in that area, so we’re trying to carry that vision forward through this condition,” city senior planner Anne Russett said.

Niles Bolton Associates map rendering

Capstone representatives said in project documents their ideas for the creek could exceed the city’s requirements, including through direct waterway access for canoe or kayak launches and public art displays along its banks.

“The project team truly believes that Ralston Creek is an amenity that has been overlooked and ignored for too long and welcome the opportunity to work with city staff and City Council to develop the right mix of amenities and improvements to the waterway and adjacent land,” they wrote.

Russett said the creek enhancements also will factor into “height bonus” approvals Capstone’s project will need from the city.

Normally, the Central Crossings subdistrict places a four-story cap on buildings, but developers can request up to four additional floors for various reasons, including — as Capstone plans to do — one extra floor for public art and three floors for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

Construction could start in summer 2020 and with the building ready for occupancy in August 2022.

Capstone must execute an affordable housing agreement with Iowa City, designating 10 percent or more of the complex’s units as affordable or else paying fees.

Capstone did not return requests for comment for this article.

The planning and zoning commission’s meeting is set for 7 p.m., Thursday, at City Hall, 410 E. Washington St.

Elsewhere in Iowa City, the Tailwind Group, of Mankato, Minn., has proposed a 10.5-story, 170-unit apartment complex that would span much of the 100 block of East College Street.

Comments: (319) 398-8366; thomas.friestad@thegazette.com

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