Government

Iowa City Council vote on proposed 1,000-unit apartment complex on hold again

The council deferred rezoning decision for negotiations

Four towers of student-oriented housing are proposed to replace the much smaller Pentacrest Garden Apartments complex adjacent to the historic Johnson County Courthouse. (Illustration provided by city of Iowa City)
Four towers of student-oriented housing are proposed to replace the much smaller Pentacrest Garden Apartments complex adjacent to the historic Johnson County Courthouse. (Illustration provided by city of Iowa City)

IOWA CITY — Developers proposing one of Iowa City’s biggest residential developments — nearly a city block of student housing — will have to wait longer for a council decision.

The Iowa City Council voted Tuesday to again defer its first consideration of a rezoning for the 12 E. Court St. proposal, which boasts roughly 1,000 student-oriented units among four buildings of up to 15 stories each. The complex would be located on about 3.5 acres of land just south of downtown and adjacent to the Johnson County Courthouse.

The deferment — the third so far — allows city staff to work with the developer on conditions proposed by Mayor Jim Throgmorton to make sure the project adheres to the city’s master plan for the Riverfront Crossings District, where the buildings are proposed.

The project is proposed by the Clark family, a major Iowa City landlord that manages companies like Apartments Downtown and Apartments at Iowa.

Council member Susan Mims, who expressed frustration that the council has debated the proposal for months, argued such conditions — including requirements on building footprint, landscaping and the acquisition of an experienced architect — should be included in the design process, during the proposed project’s height negotiations.

“We have been here since early May trying to get a rezoning done,” Mims said. “I do not see the need to delay the first reading, our first vote on this rezoning, when we can get all of these same conditions put into part of that negotiation when we move forward and start talking about the heights.”

Council members Rockne Cole and Mazahir Salih appeared to agree with Mims, while Pauline Taylor and John Thomas supported Throgmorton’s request the developer agree to additional agreements before a rezoning vote takes place.

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“On a project of this magnitude, I would like, in writing at this point, including those conditions as part of rezoning,” Thomas said.

The seven-seat council is down to only six until after Oct. 2. A special election will be held then to fill the vacancy left by Kingsley Botchway II, who resigned in July to take a job in Waterloo.

Facing a stalemate, City Manager Geoff Fruin offered to discuss the proposed conditions with the developer in the hopes of reaching a council vote later this month.

If conditions are met, the council may condense the required second and third rezoning considerations into a single vote.

The plot of land in question currently is home to the 96-unit Pentacrest Garden Apartments. The proposal would increase the number of units on that site by more than tenfold.

If approved, the rezoning from high density multifamily zoning to the Riverfront Crossings zone would allow for a building height of up to eight floors. The zone also provides bonus stories if the project aligns with goals in the city’s master plan.

Rezoning does not guarantee the seven bonus stories being sought by the developer. Those would require approval from the council later.

Rob Decker, with Axiom Consultants and the developer’s project manager, said proposed items like on-site parking and about 100 affordable housing units are expected to be included in the final proposal to help secure the bonus floors.

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“There’s many arrows that we can put in our quiver,” Decker said. “We want to get to that phase where we can all work through what we’re proposing for an actual project.”

The proposal also would connect Capitol Street, which currently does not cross the plot of land, between Burlington and Court streets.

l Comments: (319) 398-8309; mitchell.schmidt@thegazette.com

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