IOWA CITY — A 15-story student housing development may be able to gain approval from the majority of Iowa City Council members, a lengthy discussion Tuesday night indicates.
The proposed four-building, 1,000-unit development at 12 E. Court Street just south of downtown has faced a monthslong battle to have the property rezoned to a Riverfront Crossings classification. That automatically allows eight stories, and provides for a height bonus of an additional seven stories under certain conditions.
Four council members signaled they could support all seven bonus stories, as long as the district’s affordable housing fee is paid upfront and the project provides security features and student academic spaces. Other council members cited concerns over that much height and future demand for student housing.
Council members Bruce Teague, Susan Mims, Mazahir Salih and Rockne Cole said they could support all 15 stories, with Salih and Mims asking for the additional requirements.
The developer, the Clark family of Apartments Downtown and Apartments at Iowa, was seeking a sense of whether there was majority support to move ahead with its design phase.
The development would be completed in 2023 and provide some retail or commercial space, a potential rooftop restaurant and the completion of the Capitol Street right of way, along with amenities for student residents, according to plans submitted to the council. It would replace the 96-unit Pentacrest Garden Apartments that was constructed in 1978.
“It’s a $175 million project that they’re willing to serve up to us without one penny of taxpayer dollars,” Cole said, adding the cost of constructing a high-rise structure might not be viable unless the buildings are 15 stories. “If we’re talking about 12 stories, are we going to have housing Armageddon at 15? I just do not see that.”
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Developers cited the right of way dedication and historical preservation of another building as justification for the additional floors.
Mayor Jim Throgmorton said he would not support more than a 12-story average among the four buildings and said the council members shouldn’t consider it an all-or-nothing issue, meaning it’s 15 stories or no project at all.
“I don’t think we ought to let ourselves be in a position to exactly what a developer wants,” Throgmorton said. “It will alter the character of this city forever and people will remember it and they won’t like it.”
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