Talk of Iowa City high-rises, art museum downtown

July 16, 2009

By Gregg Hennigan

IOWA CITY – You may remember that there was a lot of talk a couple of years ago about building up in downtown Iowa City.

As I reported today, there has been little visible action on some proposed high-rise building projects since then, primarily because of the downturn in the economy.

That may be changing. The guys from Three Bulls development company say they hope to start construction next spring on a 10-story building with commercial, office and residential space.

Developer Marc Moen has a couple of ideas for high-rises, too. One is at the site of the Wells Fargo building on the Ped Mall. Moen said the bank has a few more years on its lease, but he wants to find a new home for it.

The other site is the northeast corner of Clinton and Burlington streets. Moen said he’s considering his options there.

That includes his continued interest in the University of Iowa art museum being part of his project. That’s an idea that generated some buzz, and controversy, a couple of years ago before fading away. But Moen said with the UI looking for a new home for the museum after it was damaged in last year’s flood, he thought it was a possibility.

That’s his opinion, though, and he said he needs to talk with UI officials about it. If the university is interested, Moen said he’d hold off on developing the corner. If they’re not, he could move forward sooner.

The UI also is considering relocating Hancher Auditorium, which also was damaged in the flood, to the downtown area. Moen said that would provide a big boost to the area and aid the prospects of the high-rise projects, all of which are proposed for just a block from the possible Hancher site.

“That would be huge, just fantastic,” he said.


Group to discuss Sheraton walkway

May 26, 2009

By Gregg Hennigan

IOWA CITY – The City Council Economic Development Committee will discuss the Sheraton Iowa City walkway on Wednesday.

The meeting begins at 2:30 p.m. in the city manager’s conference room in City Hall.

In October, the council voted 5-2 to approve an agreement that lets the hotel’s new owner, RBD Iowa City, restrict access to the public easement that serves as a walkway through the hotel’s lobby between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Before that can happen, though, improvements must be made to an exterior walkway to the west of the building, including adding lighting and signs.

The easement through the hotel was created when the hotel was built in the 1980s. At night, it is commonly used by bar and restaurant patrons to enter and leave the Pedestrian Mall area.

Ron Kim of Davidson Hotel Co., which manages the hotel for RBD, told the council he wanted  to close off the walkway “to keep the unwanted behavior out” of the hotel.
Council members Amy Correia and Mike Wright cast the dissenting votes, saying that while they understood the hotel’s reasoning, they saw the outside passage as less safe than going through the building.

Other council members said they thought the exterior upgrades would suffice.

The easement currently is 25 feet wide and open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The agreement approved in October will narrow it to about 12 feet. Between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., only hotel employees and guests will be allowed to use it.
In exchange, the hotel will pay half the cost of upgrading the exterior walkway. The city would pick up the other half of the bill, which in October was roughly estimated at up to $300,000.