Higher education

University of Iowa eyes downtown land, pitches new entrepreneurial center

Land would be purchased from church for $2.7 million

The Old Capitol building is shown in Iowa City on Monday, March 30, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
The Old Capitol building is shown in Iowa City on Monday, March 30, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa wants to buy a pair of adjoining properties in downtown Iowa City — across from its existing Pappajohn Business Building — potentially allowing the campus to add a new entrepreneurial center.

UI administrators this week are asking the Board of Regents to approve the purchase of 109 E. Market St. and 128 N. Clinton St. from Gloria Dei Lutheran Church of Iowa City for a total $2.7 million. The two properties, “in a key location immediately adjacent to the University of Iowa campus,” span a total area of 9,394 square feet.

Members of the board’s properties and facilities committee expressed support for the request. The properties in question abut to the south two other pieces of land the university is under contract to buy — one will close in 2018 and the other is on track to close a few years out.

Those properties are under contract for a purchase price of $308 per square foot, based on two appraisals. The $2.7 million purchase being requested this week amounts to $285 per square foot, “negotiated using the appraisals of these other two properties given their proximity and similarity.”

New appraisals, despite their expense, are “unlikely to provide any new land valuation information.” Thus, the university wants the board to waive its policy requiring appraisals for property purchases.

Each of the two new parcels UI wants to buy has a structure on it — one an older rooming house and the other a building used by Gloria Dei for offices.

“Neither building has value to the university, so the structures would be razed upon closing,” according to board documents.


During Wednesday’s board committee meeting, university officials clarified the church is planning to relocate one of the buildings and the university will help shoulder that cost.

Collectively, the four purchased properties “would provide the university with a good footprint on which to develop and construct a new academic building.”

As it sits across from the UI Pappajohn Business Building, the university has started an initial feasibility study for an entrepreneurial center associated with the Tippie College of Business on the site. That facility was mentioned in a Board of Regents capital plan over the summer, showing a potential cost of $30 million.

l Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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