The Daily Iowan

Downtown Iowa City high-rise apartment set for council vote

City Council is set to vote on the Pentacrest Gardens, a downtown high-rise that could be the largest residential development in Iowa City history with 1,000 units.

The+Rise+apartment+building+is+seen+on+June+25%2C+2018.+Another+high-rise+apartment+building+may+make+its+way+into+the+downtown+area+pending+city+council+approval.+%28Paxton+Corey%2FThe+Daily+Iowan%29
The Rise apartment building is seen on June 25, 2018. Another high-rise apartment building may make its way into the downtown area pending city council approval. (Paxton Corey/The Daily Iowan)

The Rise apartment building is seen on June 25, 2018. Another high-rise apartment building may make its way into the downtown area pending city council approval. (Paxton Corey/The Daily Iowan)

The Rise apartment building is seen on June 25, 2018. Another high-rise apartment building may make its way into the downtown area pending city council approval. (Paxton Corey/The Daily Iowan)

Emily Wangen, [email protected]

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City Councilors are divided on rezoning a piece of land next to campus, which would lead to a high-rise apartment building and help relieve pressure on off-campus student housing.

The proposed redevelopment of the Pentacrest Gardens apartments, 12 E. Court St., would have 15 stories of apartments geared toward students because of the location’s proximity to the University of Iowa campus.

The South Downtown subdistrict, the locations current zoning status, allows buildings to reach eight stories, with the possibility of an extra seven stories if granted by the city and approved by the Federal Aviation Administration. Property-owner representative Jeff Clarke has previously said the project will not move forward if limited to eight stories.

The council is set to have its first vote during its next meeting, July 3, after delaying the vote twice in order to get more information from the developer and from the Planning & Zoning Commission. The project has sparked debate among city councilors while in the rezoning phase with concerns pertaining to the height and density of the project.

“The proposed rezoning has many merits, but the council has the legal right and, given the potential magnitude of the development, likewise the responsibility to consider whether it is necessary and appropriate to make approval of the rezoning subject to certain conditions,” Mayor Jim Throgmorton said in an email to The Daily Iowan.

RELATED: Proposed development sparks City Council debate following rezoning request

The Iowa City City Council adopted the Downtown and Riverfront Crossings master plan in January 2013 as a framework to guide future investment and projects that will affect people living or working in or near downtown as well as the city as a whole, according to city documents.

There are eight subdistricts in Riverfront Crossings. Each comes with its own intended uses and specifications for building, including height and setbacks on the property.

Riverfront Crossings has experienced development with construction projects such as RISE at Riverfront Crossings, 435 S. Linn St., and 316 Madison, 316 S. Madison St., which are both scheduled for tenants to move in this fall.

With the addition of height bonuses, the redevelopment of Pentacrest Gardens could be the largest residential development in Iowa City’s history, Throgmorton said in the email. The project could add up to 1,000 apartments near downtown with a focus on student housing.

“This area, in particular this location, is really right for development,” City Councilor Kingsley Botchway said.

Botchway noted that through his interaction with students, he believes they look for more student housing and are surprised by the delay.

City Councilor Susan Mims said she believed the development in the area would help take pressure off the North Side neighborhood for students and others who look to live near the UI campus.

In order to start work on the project, the property owner must first get approval to be rezoned from high-density multifamily residential property to Riverfront Crossings’ South Downtown District.

RELATED: Guest Opinion: City councilor speaks out against pushback on downtown high rise

The application was submitted at the end of March and has gone through nearly all the steps of rezoning: neighborhood notification, staff report, and Planning & Zoning Commission recommendation to approve the request. The City Council will make the decision on whether to rezone the property after voting on the issue three times, required for city ordinances.

“Exploration and assessment of possible conditions require time for thought and discussion. Efforts to pressure the council into making a quick decision are, in my judgment, profoundly misguided,” Throgmorton said in an email to the <em>DI</em>.

The previous discussion on the topic during the May 29 meeting ended with a decision to consult with the Planning & Zoning Commission. Mims said it was her understanding that the consultation is set to take place on July 3 but noted she believes it is not a good use of time.

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