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Iowa City Committee Recommends $14 Million for New High-Rise

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — A controversial high-rise plan for the edge of downtown Iowa City got another “go-ahead” from a city council committee on Monday.

But The Chauncey development the entire council approved back in January of 2013 is not the same as it was a year and a half ago.

The plan by developer Marc Moen then was a 20-story building with a mix of retail and residential space. The mix of uses is the same, but the project has shrunk in size by 25 percent. It’s now a 15-story proposal. The developer still is seeking $14.2-million dollars in public financing to help with the project.

The developer and city staff still have to sit down and hammer out the details. But the approval by a council economic committee Monday sends the issue to the full council with a recommendation to accept the deal.

When it was 20 stories, The Chauncey was given the nickname “the shadow” because it would have towered over neighboring buildings and perhaps blocked some sunlight.

Amanda Van Horne, a church administrator with nearby Trinity Episcopal Church, said even a building five stories shorter still is a concern.

“We see that as an improvement but I would think we still have some concerns about the overall height,” she said.

Council members were less concerned about height and more enthused about what the project would bring new to downtown.

Upper floors would have condos, apartments and even a 35-room hotel. But the first floor would include movie theaters and a bowling alley. That kind of development costs more than typical retail space.

Iowa City Mayor Matt Hayek said the council members on the economic committee agreed the developer made a good case for public assistance.

“We don’t take these things lightly. This is a substantial project and it’s going to require public assistance and we’re very careful stewards of the public dollar,” Hayek said.

While three on the council already agree with the financial request, the project still faces criticism and a lawsuit that has a hearing set for next February.

Rockne Cole, the plaintiff in that suit, said the reduction in size changes nothing.

“You’re talking about a $12-million dollar money-up-front TIFF financing this project. And we firmly believe the 1% do not need subsidized housing,” he said.

Developer Moen would like to start construction sometime in 2015. It would take about two years to complete the residential areas and another six months beyond that for the commercial portions.

The full city council is expected to take a look at the financial deal soon.

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