'Dog community center' proposed for Iowa City

Facility would provide area for classes and colab space

Along with the activity area in the proposed dog community center will be an on-leash dog track where people can run wit
Along with the activity area in the proposed dog community center will be an on-leash dog track where people can run with their dogs (Rendering courtesy Shive-Hattery Architecture and Engineering)

IOWA CITY — Phil O’Brien was home with this two dogs during 2019 polar vortex when inspiration hit.

O’Brien, an owner and agent with Urban Acres Real Estate, noticed his dogs’ nails needed to be cut. Normally, O’Brien said, they’d get worn down on walks outdoors, but that wasn’t possible during the polar vortex’s dangerous temperatures.

“I was sitting there and looking, thinking, ‘We’ve got to get you out,’” he recalled. “I’m racking my brain on where you can go and run and hang out with them without having to worry about hot days, cold days, rainy days?”

Without any obvious options, O’Brien has spent the last year preparing to create his own solution, which he calls a “community center for dogs.”

The 33,000-square-foot facility to be built at 2513 N. Dodge St. in Iowa City, north of Interstate 80, is set to have an activity area for dogs to run free, a multipurpose area to host classes, speakers and other events, and colab space for those who need an area to operate their business but don’t want to leave their dog alone at home.

“This is really geared toward being very animal friendly,” O’Brien said.

Along with the activity area will be an on-leash dog track where people can run with their dogs. O’Brian also is including a full-service restaurant in his dog community center concept, though dogs likely won’t be allowed inside the restaurant due to health code restrictions. O’Brien is working with Shive-Hattery on the multimillion-dollar project.

Unlike existing dog parks in Iowa City, O’Brien said his space — which doesn’t have an official name yet — will be supervised with trained staff who will look after your pet while you go about your activities.


“Go grab a drink and come back,” he said. “You know your dog is going to be looked after.”

O’Brien said the facility will offer different options such as an annual pass, monthly pass, day pass or punch cards. He also plans to make it open to travelers, provided they can show their dogs are property vaccinated.

The project is scheduled to be discussed Thursday by the Iowa City Planning and Zoning Commission, which is set to review amendments to the city code covering animal-related commercial uses. City staff has recommended approval of the amendments.

O’Brien said he is hopeful the facility will be open by late fall this year.

“I’ve been working on this for almost a year now,” he said. “I’m extremely excited to put a shovel in the ground and get this going.”

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