News

Condos planned along Cedar River next to Ellis Park

City Council expected to endorse deal for 4-story, 27-unit building

CEDAR RAPIDS — Development prospects for the Ellis Boulevard NW neighborhood are expected to get a boost from a $6.2-million, four-story condominium project moving ahead at a spot along the Cedar River next to Ellis Park.

Developer Jim Happel said Friday he is teaming up with local developer/architect Steve Emerson and hoped to get the project underway this year.

Happel has been talking about it with city leaders and neighborhood residents for a couple of years and said he first “drew it out in pencil” back in 2001.

Now that the city knows where its flood control alignment will run, he said it’s time to proceed with the project, which will incorporate a flood wall into it.

The plans feature a first floor of parking and 27 condominiums above. Prices would range from $165,000 to $180,000 for one-bedroom units to $330,000 for each of four, three-bedroom penthouses, Happel said. A second phase calls for a restaurant next door.

Happel said he intends to live in the building and has secured “quite a few options” from buyers who want to purchase units. He believes the project would prompt others to invest in the neighborhood as well.

The City Council is expected Tuesday to back the project and request that the city manager enter into a development agreement with Happel.

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According to a report to the council, city staff anticipates Happel will invest $6.2 million in the project, including buying four city-owned lots at 1871, 1895, 1915 and 1919 Ellis Boulevard NW.

Proceeds for the land, which the city acquired in its federally funded, flood recovery buyout program, would go to the federal government.

Under the proposal, the city would provide a 10-year, 100-percent property-tax exemption under it Core District Reinvestment Program.

The project would allow room for a riverside trail, according to the city’s report.

The city has secured a state approval that allows redevelopment in the 100-year flood plain with flood protection in a handful of areas the city deemed “viable business corridors.” Ellis Boulevard NW is one, along with downtown, New Bohemia, Czech Village and Kingston Village.

City Council member Scott Olson said Friday the Happel project is an example of how investors now feel there is a safe way after the 2008 flood to build by the river.

“What we’re seeing on both sides of the river is that people are feeling confident now that the flood (control system) will eventually be a reality,” Olson said.

Al Pierson, owner of Pierson’s Flower Shop and Greenhouses, 1800 Ellis Blvd. NW, said the Happel project has been well received by the Northwest Neighbors Neighborhood Association, of which he is president. Some in the neighborhood, he said, are interested in buying condos there.

“It’s going to be bringing people into the neighborhood, which is what the association has wanted to see happen,” Pierson said. “And it will give the neighborhood more visibility being right here on Ellis Boulevard. Everyone will go by it and say, ‘Wow, something is happening over here.’ ”

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Linda Seger, past president of the neighborhood association, said she hoped that the project, which sits on the edge of Ellis Park, would spur more development that reflects “quality, creative style and the dignity of the past” than she said has been seen in the post-flood home replacement projects in the neighborhood. That said, she didn’t want to see development occur inside the park.

The City Council has approved a development across Ellis Boulevard and above the Happel site where the Ahmann Companies is preparing to build a new neighborhood on ground that previously had been used as a chipping practice area for the Ellis Golf Course.

The Ahmann project, which features eight single-family homes, 10 townhomes and five duplex buildings, is slated to start construction this year, said Chad Pelley, business development manager at Ahmann.

l Comments: (319) 398-8312; rick.smith@thegazette.com

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