Government

Cedar Rapids council favors multifamily project neighbors want stopped

Development on northern edge could have been more intense, backers say

Cedar Rapids City Hall on the corner of 1st Avenue and 1st Street East. (file photo)
Cedar Rapids City Hall on the corner of 1st Avenue and 1st Street East. (file photo)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Facing its first contentious decision of the year Tuesday, the Cedar Rapids City Council backed a $25 million development of duplexes and market- rate apartments planned for the future Tower Terrace Road at Council Street NE, an important growth corridor along the city’s northern edge.

The council unanimously approved the request by Abode Construction of Marion to rezone farmland near Robins for Foxtrail Ridge, which would have 124 units in 36 duplexes and five apartment buildings.

While the matter still needs two more votes of approval, council members showed little wavering in their positions.

“I think the developer is building what is in demand,” member Scott Overland said. “I would guess over time some of the folks that are living in this neighborhood will end up locating at some of those duplexes because they don’t want to leave their great neighborhood.”

The vote is in the spotlight for a few reasons:

There’s near universal opposition to the multifamily project by the adjacent neighborhood of mid-to-upscale single-family homes.

But city staff officials identify it as an example of blending housing types — providing the “missing middle” between large-scale apartment complexes and single-family homes — encouraged in the new zoning code, which the City Council approved just last year.

The council voted 8-0 — with Marty Hoeger abstaining — to rezone 19.59 acres west of Council Street NE and north of Woodcrest Street NE from agriculture to suburban residential medium flex. Additional votes are expected Feb. 25 and March 10.

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“We try to be as sensitive as we can to the concerns we hear,” said Hannah Kustes, of Abode Construction.

Kustes noted the development represents an investment of $25 million with hopes of beginning construction as soon as possible and completing it within three years.

She estimated duplexes would start around $250,000 and the two-bedroom apartments would fetch about $1,450 per month.

A petition with 255 signatures of opposition was submitted, along with several letters. They cited increased traffic, incompatibility between the single-family and multifamily housing, decrease of property values and inconsistency with other city plans.

Opposition was stiff enough to trigger a supermajority vote, which required approval from 75 percent of council members rather than a simple majority.

“Site development is not what this opposition is about,” said Shannon McPherson, whose home abuts the site. “We’ve always known this site could not remain agricultural. Rather, it is opposition to what we believe is the wrong development for this site.”

Donna Duerksen, whose home also would be adjacent, said the vote was not a surprise and neighbors would regroup in the coming days to decide how to proceed.

Some council members, staff and developers called the project a good compromise compared to what other development could go there.

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The busy corner of Council Street and Tower Terrace could be ripe for a gas station, for example, or another commercial use, they said. Instead, the apartment buildings would go at that hot spot.

The developer made a number of concessions, such as running a landscaped buffer between the existing neighborhood and the proposed one, installing detention basins to help manage stormwater, orienting the duplexes closer to the single-family homes and apartment farther away, and limiting the apartment buildings to two stories.

Foxtrail Ridge would average 6.3 units per acre compared with 2.2 to 3.6 units per acre in the surrounding neighborhood. Mayor Brad Hart saw the 6.3 unit density as a “huge plus” when the developers could have pushed for up to 24 units per acre instead.

“I thought it was maybe one of the best things that could happen for development along Tower Terrace,” Hart said.

Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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