Government

Cedar Rapids looks to sell two city-owned NewBo properties

The NewBo City Market in the New Bohemia neighborhood in an aerial photograph in X on Wednesday, May 14, 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
The NewBo City Market in the New Bohemia neighborhood in an aerial photograph in X on Wednesday, May 14, 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — One of Cedar Rapids’ busiest developers is seeking to acquire two of the remaining city-owned parcels in the New Bohemia District.

Ahmann Companies’ interest in two vacant properties at the south end of NewBo, 1302 and 1306 Third St. SE, prompted the city to begin its request for proposals process, which is generally required before selling public land to the private sector.

“We are trying to get a project going there,” said Chad Pelley, business development manager for Ahmann Companies. “We are trying to work on the next phase of the NewBo area that makes sense.”

Early concepts for the space feature a four-plus story, residential-retail mix building comparable to NewBo Station, 1028 Third St. SE, which is occupied by Pig and Porter and Raygun on the first floor. Pelley noted the plans are in preliminary stages since the company hasn’t been approved to acquire the land.

“The city is asking developers to step up their game up, so we are trying to do that,” Pelley said.

The request for proposal process allows others to bid for the land. Proposals are due to the city by March 15, and the City Council is expected to select a preferred developer on April 9.

The city acquired the land through the federal buyout program after the 2008 flood, purchasing it from John and Mary Osborn for $26,414 in 2011. Proceeds from the sale will return to the federal buyout program. The price will be based on fair market value, according to the city.

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Because the city owns the land, it can set basic requirements for how it is used. In this case, the city is requiring the building be at least two stories and not taller than six stories, match urban aesthetics of the area, incorporate flood mitigation, and provide the mix of retail and residential uses typical for the area.

“It’s also located in a shopfront overlay and that would require commercial on the first floor,” said Lauren Freeman, the city’s community development coordinator.

This segment of NewBo is in transition.

The block has not yet seen the wave of development north on Third Street or on 12th Avenue SE. With the extension of 16th Avenue improving traffic flow and opening up more development opportunities, the city and developers anticipate significant redevelopment in this south NewBo area in the coming years.

Much of the block is either vacant or has small storage buildings at the back edge of the property line.

Beth DeBoom, who owns Little House Artifacts and the old White Elephant building across the street from the city lots, is looking forward to development but has some concerns.

“It’ll be nice to get some development down our way,” DeBoom said. “But, I cringed at the news because I picture yet another big development with vacant storefronts dwarfing historic properties like mine.”

For Ahmann Companies, this would be the latest in a wave of high profile developments.

In the past three months Ahmann Companies has announced plans for development at the intersection of Highway 100 and Edgewood Road NE. This includes the $50 million Edgewood Town Center, which will feature Fleet Farm and $25 million River Ridge Square, which will include three, three-story mixed-use buildings, including retail and office space on the first floor and 84 residential units on the second and third floors, and a relocated Randy Kuehl Honda dealership.

In addition, Ahmann has several residential projects under construction including Peck’s Landing, a row of duplexes on Ellis Boulevard NW, an apartment complex on First Avenue SW, and the recently completed the 329 Building in NewBo.

“We’ve got a lot going on, and a lot on back burner,” Pelley said.

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

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