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Government

Hiawatha looks toward growth, city center, more housing

City poised for 'explosive commercial development,' developer says

Hiawatha City Hall, 101 Emmons St., is the center of government for the city of 7,400 north of Cedar Rapids. In a state of the city luncheon Thursday, city officials and developers described plans for a village center, more housing, development of the Robins Road corridor and completion of the Tower Terrace Road interchange with Interstate 380. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Hiawatha City Hall, 101 Emmons St., is the center of government for the city of 7,400 north of Cedar Rapids. In a state of the city luncheon Thursday, city officials and developers described plans for a village center, more housing, development of the Robins Road corridor and completion of the Tower Terrace Road interchange with Interstate 380. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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HIAWATHA — Business leaders and city officials are hoping to address a lack of multifamily housing and a commerce center in the coming years.

At the state of city luncheon Thursday afternoon, panelists explained efforts to expand housing and retail in the city of 7,400 just north of Cedar Rapids.

“It’s impressive right now, the momentum that Hiawatha has going,” Mayor Bill Bennett said during a presentation about the Village Center plan. “We’re asking these developers to kind of start from scratch and build us a town center.

“We don’t have an exact picture of what it’s going to be yet but we’re working on it,” he said. “I think in 2020, that’ll come to realization.”

The Village Center, approved by the Hiawatha City Council in March, aims to create a downtown-type area on city-owned land near where North Center Point Road, Emmons Street and Robins Road meet.

The $70 million project is to cover 15 acres. Plans call for 250 units of single and multifamily housing and no fewer than 85,000 square feet of commercial and retail space, according to the Hiawatha Economic Development Corp.

The city is moving ahead with the mixed-use development despite tough times for retail in the age of online shopping.

Developer Joe Ahmann, one of the Thursday panelists, said projects and cities have to be designed with flexibility to adapt to a changing market.

“I think you have to be creative if you develop new projects, and mixed use is critical,” Ahmann said.

“It needs to have a good mix that draw people to it because you can sit at home and shop online,” he said. “So why are you going to go out? There’s got to be reasons. There’s got to be other things to do.”

To complement that city center development, Hiawatha also is undertaking a Robins Road Corridor study.

Pat Parsley, the city’s community development director, said that area is primed for redevelopment because of an infrastructure upgrade and proximity to the downtown.

Parsley said a plan for the area is in the adoption process by the city council and will guide future uses and zoning along the corridor.

Another major milestone for the city is a $20 million Interstate 380/Tower Terrace Road interchange, which is part of a $94 million, multiyear project to connect the interstate to Highway 13 in Marion.

“I think you’re going to see all sorts of growth,” developer Jon Dusek said. “Right now, Hiawatha is lacking, I would say, restaurants and retail.

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“I think you’ll see explosive commercial development and, fanning out toward Marion, more residential. But it’s going to be a huge impact.”

• Comments: (319) 339-3172; maddy.arnold@thegazette.com

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