CEDAR RAPIDS — An Indiana developer with a track record in Cedar Rapids has submitted conceptual plans for an apartment complex on the Banjo Block, a centrally located and mostly vacant property adjacent to the Cedar Rapids Public Library and Greene Square.
TWG Development, of Indianapolis, has submitted preliminary site plans for Banjo Flats on the block at Fourth Avenue and Fifth Street SE that has sat mostly vacant for years. The block has been dubbed “Banjo” for Banjo Refrigeration, a business that long operated there.
“This is something we’ve always wanted to do — more of a market rate project in Cedar Rapids,” said Sam Rogers, a development director for TWG. “When this site came around, we thought this could be a great project. We love the area, we love the site and location, and we wanted to be in downtown.”
The estimated $35 million to $40 million project would feature 249 apartment units, primarily one- and two-bedroom, 1,200 square feet of ground level retail space, 186 parking stalls and amenities, including a pool, fitness center, bike shop and community room.
The 200,000-square-foot structure would be five stories with the first devoted mostly to parking and a density of 120.4 units per acre.
A previous effort to redevelop the site with apartments was withdrawn last fall by another Indiana developer — SC Bodner — upon realizing the market couldn’t support the high-end rents built into the funding plan for the project.
However, the SC Bodner project was not a total loss. The group was able to get the three property owners of the site under contract, which had long been an obstacle for those considering plans there.
Rogers called getting the land assembled “painless.”
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TWG has two large housing project completed and a third nearly complete in Cedar Rapids and another housing project in Marion.
Most of the other work in the area has been affordable housing with a small market-rate component, while the Banjo site would be primarily market rate with perhaps 10 percent deemed “affordable” under federal and state guidelines.
“Given the area and given what everyone seemed to want with the project, we decided this was more of a market-rate type deal with a smaller affordable component,” Rogers said, noting the market-rate units would be below the top end of the market.
He said he hoped to begin construction later this year but noted any timeline was highly tentative, based on refining the design to meet local regulations and uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
Caleb Mason, a Cedar Rapids economic development analyst, said city officials would be reviewing the plans this week and provide feedback based on zoning requirements. Financial incentives likely wouldn’t be considered until the developer comes up with a more refined design and budget.
“We are doing our best to keep things moving,” Mason said of continuing work when many city functions and businesses have ground to a halt amid COVID-19. “These are future projects, so we want to do what we can to balance present needs while allowing people to be able to plan for future.”
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