Rebuilding Historic Iowa City Neighborhoods

By Steve Nicoles, Iowa City Reporter

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By Aaron Hepker

IOWA CITY - It's been two weeks since tornadoes tore up Iowa city. They damaged hundreds of buildings throughout the city, and uprooted many century old trees. Businesses were lost. And rebuilding has moved slowly. One possible reason for the slow rebuilding process is more than half of the damaged buildings are considered historical. And they need to remain historical at all costs.

It’s been two weeks since tornadoes blew through Iowa City and contractors are working to rebuild some of the city's oldest homes. On Iowa Avenue many homes still need roofs and windows. And they need to look a specific way.

Tim Wietzel with the Historic Preservation Commission told KCRG-TV9 News, “It's not necessarily a good reason to remove the historical fabric of a neighborhood just because there's some heavy damage." The Historical Preservation Commission makes sure every building on this block looks historical, even after a tornado. Tim Wietzel has met spoken with most of the homeowners and says they're okay with maintaining the block's ambiance. “They don't want to see any leniency come into play because they want to see their neighborhood stay the same."

A majority of property owners might want to keep the houses looking the way they were, but KCRG-TV9 News found at least one property owner who wished to remain anonymous saying he doesn't think the city should dictate how the houses look on the outside. The property owner says he can't even put in energy efficient windows because they won't match the style the historic preservation commission wants.

KCRG-TV9 News did get in touch with another homeowner who says he agrees with the historic preservation commission. The city wants to help people with the added costs. Just last week Mayor Ross Wilburn sent a letter to the governor asking for state money. Wilburn admits it won't be easy for people to rebuild in an historical district.

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