Developers Show Off Downtown Housing Proposals

By Chelsea Keenan, Reporter

A rendering of downtown condominiums at 500 Third Avenue SE by Aspect Architecture : Design would be built on the same block as The Gazette building during an Urban Living in Downtown Cedar Rapids open house at the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance on Tuesday, May 14, 2013, in southeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Developers showcased urban housing options. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette-KCRG)

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By Aaron Hepker

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - High rise apartment buildings, trendy lofts and upscale condominium proposals displayed on Tuesday night indicate downtown Cedar Rapids could start to see an influx of new housing units.

The Downtown Cedar Rapids Urban Living event, put on by Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, attracted about 170 people, from young professionals to empty nesters hoping to downsize their homes.

"We're right on the cusp of everyone wanting to live here, I believe," said Fred Timko of Down to Earth Development.

The 10 proposed projects cross the spectrum of affordability, ranging from high-end luxury condos to income-restricted lofts, with plenty of market-rate units in between. The projects also are in various phases of completion.

Several, such as Timko's Kingston Commons Condominiums, are ready to begin construction within the next several months.

Others are still at the rendering stage, such as developer Steve Emerson's idea to put a high rise on 500 Third Ave. SE behind The Gazette's building. Emerson bought the building in late 2012 and is renovating a portion and leasing it back to The Gazette.

Emerson also had plans for two other projects — market-rate apartments and up-scale condos. All together, the three projects would provide an additional 120 to 130 units downtown, he said.

Increased retail space is another major component of many of the housing plans, such as High Properties Coventry Lofts. The 19-unit building will have space for two retailers, one of which may be Bruegger's Bagels, said Greg Swartzendruber, the group's director of commercial and private equity projects.

The completion of Coventry Lofts is dependent upon a federal Community Development Block Grant, which is administered by the state to develop housing for people with low and moderate incomes. Swartzendruber said that matter will be decided on June 1. "If it's approved, we'd go to work immediately," he said.

The Metro Economic Alliance surveyed attendees on their opinions of downtown housing options, asking them what is keeping them from living downtown, cost preferences and why they would like to live downtown, among others.

Sarika Bhakta, the agency's district improvement specialist, said Metro Economic Alliance also is collecting downtown housing data, looking at the number of units already available and the number of proposed units in upcoming projects.

"Increased housing will give us that 24/7 vibrancy we need," Bhakta said. "It will help retailers, help business and add additional features and amenities."

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