Local Government

28-story high rise proposed in downtown Cedar Rapids

Structure on former Siegel's site would be city's tallest building

The One Park Place proposal for downtown Cedar Rapids calls for a 28-story development. (Rendering via Neumann Monson Ar
The One Park Place proposal for downtown Cedar Rapids calls for a 28-story development. (Rendering via Neumann Monson Architects)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Three developers have proposed high-rises that could change the downtown Cedar Rapids skyline, including a 28-story, $103 million tower that would be the tallest in downtown.

The proposals for three city-owned parcels at the southeastcorner of First Street SE and Third Avenue SE vary in function and could change the feel of downtown, too, with grocery stores, a medical clinic, a rooftop restaurant, hotel and housing.

“We received three very strong proposals,” said Jennifer Pratt, Cedar Rapids community development director. “I would say the scale of them is pretty impressive.”

The 14-story, $33 million Avalon Sky Lofts focuses on housing. The 11-story, $33 million Aspect Designs project has a mix of housing, retail, a clinic and an upscale grocer. The 28-story, $103 million One Park Place has non-binding letters of intent from Kinseth Hospitality to run a hotel, Iowa City’s Bread Garden Market to operate a grocery store, condos and other retailers.

There’s other differences, too. The city has worked extensively with two of the developers, Fred Timko with Sky Lofts and Steve Emerson with Aspect, while Jesse Allen with One Park Place has worked in Iowa City but is new to Cedar Rapids.

Allen is also seeking $23 million investment from the city upfront, which is much more than the other two proposals.

Cedar Rapids is seeking a private developer for the last city-owned plot marked for post-flood redevelopment in the downtown core. A parking lot now occupies the land, which includes three adjoining parcels. Siegel’s Jewelry had been located there before the flood.

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The city purchased the three parcels, which were underwater in 2008, for nearly $1 million in 2010 and 2011, and is now working to put the space back to use and get it back on the tax rolls. The proposals, which include plans to mitigate future flooding, were due on Friday.

City staff will begin pouring over the details to make a recommendation to City Council, likely at its May 24 meeting. After a developer is selected, the city would consider tax breaks on July 26.

Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett called them “three outstanding proposals” and a “tremendous response.” He said all three had unique features that could make it a tough decision.

“This level of interest for three multistory buildings in downtown, it’s great to be in a position to pick and choose,” Corbett said.

Timko, with the Avalon project, said his project should stand out because of its focus on housing is the primary need identified in the downtown area.

“There’s three very dramatic proposals there and one really dramatic one,” Timko said. “I just hope they pick the one they have the most faith in getting done.”

Emerson noted his also was tailored to the needs of downtown with a grocery store and clinic.

“I think all three are good proposal,” Emerson said. “I’d support any of them. The 28-story with the hotel at first blush seems a little over the top, but if they can make it go, it would be great for Cedar Rapids.”

Allen didn’t respond to questions seeking comment.

Proposal details:

— Avalon Sky Lofts: Up to 250 residents could occupy 116 market rate apartments. One bedroom, two bedroom, and studio units vary from 410 to 1,438 square feet and $635 to $2,225 monthly for lease.

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Level one would have community space and retail. Levels two to six would have a 365-stall parking ramp, and levels seven to 14 would be for housing with multiuse space available for rent and a community deck. The roof would have a solar array and integrated rain system.

The bid offers $630,000 for the land, and it could be complete in September 2018. Avalon estimates it would need $8.6 million in new market tax credits and $1.5 million in workforce housing tax credits.

— Aspect architecture:design: A 28,000 to 35,000 square foot grocery store would occupy levels one and two as the anchor tenant, a 3,640 square foot medical clinic on the ground level, 11 two-story loft condos would start on the second level, and 550 parking stalls would be on the upper levels.

A solar array is slated for the roof, and the project would endeavor for a LEED platinum environmental certification.

The Aspect team is in discussions “with numerous grocery brands including Fresh Thyme, Whole Foods, Natural Grocers and Sprouts.”

The project would seek tax credits through the Urban Revitalization or TIF program equal to 100 percent abatement or reimbursement for 15 years. The project could be complete in 24 months of acquiring the property.

— One Park Place has the largest scope. It includes two adjacent parcels on the same city block on First Street SE. Those negotiations are underway.

One Park Place’s street level would include the grocery store, a hotel entrance, and another retailer. A parking ramp with 744 spaces, including 300 for downtown professionals, would be located on floors two through seven.

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Floors eight and nine are for offices, while floor 10 would be public space with a spa and conference center. A 110-room hotel would be on floors 11 through 15. Floors 16 to 21 would have 60 total 750 square foot and 1,330 square foot apartments. Floors 22 to 27 would include 30 total 1,350 square foot and 2050 square foot condos. Floor 28 would have a rooftop restaurant.

Allen is making a bid of $630,000 for the land. If approved the project could be complete by June 2020.

The 28-story building would be taller than the Alliant Tower and would be the tallest in downtown Cedar Rapids, Pratt said.

“I’ve never heard any concerns about height,” Pratt said. “What we are really looking at is building the critical mass of housing and service.”

The city would need to look into any conflicts with Federal Aviation Administration regulations, she said.

Most recently, Cedar Rapids had been leasing the three parcels the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, Downtown Parking Management and Short Term Parking Solutions, beginning Aug. 13, 2013. The agreement called for the city to reimburse the group for any improvements if the property was sold within about three years. That period ends in September.

The area at First Street SE and Third Avenue SE, a block from the Cedar River riverfront, is in transition with the $15 million remodel of the five-story Smulekoff’s Home Store, and $37 million, 11-story CRST Center happening at the same intersection.

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