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CBJ REPORT: Developers propose mix-used development across from McGrath Amphitheatre

A proposal for a four-story, 36-unit housing development across from McGrath Amphitheater advanced this week, when the Cedar Rapids City Council authorized staff to negotiate a development agreement for city-owned parcels at 107 and 111 5th Ave. SW and 500 and 504 First St. SW. (CBS2/FOX28)

Every week, the Corridor Business Journal shares stories it's working on with CBS 2 News. Here are some of their top stories that will appear in Monday's edition of the CBJ.

Developers propose mix-used development across from McGrath Amphitheatre

A proposal for a four-story, 36-unit housing development across from McGrath Amphitheater advanced this week, when the Cedar Rapids City Council authorized staff to negotiate a development agreement for city-owned parcels at 107 and 111 5th Ave. SW and 500 and 504 First St. SW.

DFMA LLC, led by Chad Pelley, is proposing the $3.8-million project to include 36 studio apartment units on the second through fourth floors, 19 parking stalls on the first floor and a common area projecting to the front of the building.

City Economic Development Analyst Caleb Mason said the developer is seeking a 10-year, 100 percent tax exemption on the increased assessed valuation generated by the project, and the city's backing in seeking state Workforce Housing Tax Credits. The exemption requested is the city's standard exemption under its Core District Reinvestment Program, Mr. Mason said, and would satisfy a local match requirement for the state tax credits.

City staff recommended the city portion of the site, acquired in flood buyouts, be sold for $15,000, with proceeds being reimbursed to the state. The building must also include flood mitigation measures because flood protection is still lacking in the area, and the developer will be expected to work out a shared parking agreement with an adjacent property owner to supplement the first-floor parking.

Council Members Ann Poe made it plain she had hoped for something larger and grander, pointing to the Red Cedar Lofts, a mixed-use projects that includes upscale condos with balconies that will be its neighbor. Mayor Ron Corbett said he'd like to see the project go even higher than four stories. Ms. Poe cast the sole vote against proceeding with negotiations.

Downtown IC building up for auction

The three-story retail building in the 100 block of Iowa City's E. College Street that houses the Union Bar and Revival is going to auction next month.

The Ruth V. Swisher Revocable Trust is offering the building at auction through Steffes Group, which describes it as an iconic downtown property that has not been on the market in 94 years. A sale bill includes a copy of a newspaper article from 1923 detailing the last sale of the building, then known as the Crescent Block, to M.G. Koser and his sons, "two prominent Realtors," for $50,000.

At the time the Iowa City Press-Citizen published the article, the building housed Smith & Hiatt's Hardware and McLachlan & Co. grocery, among others. It had previously housed W.M. Morrison's Pharmacy.

The building has 27,000 square feet of spaces at 117, 119, 121 and 123 E. College Street, which are all offered as one. The lower level spaces of the three-story building are under long-term lease to the Union Bar, Revival and Revival 119, and much of the upper spaces remain vacant, providing what the listing describes as a restoration opportunity.

The live auction will be conducted at 1 p.m. August 3 at Hotel Vetro's Lehman Ballroom, 201 S. Linn St. Online bidding is also available through the Steffes Group's web site.

Cold brew in the Corridor

The cold-brewed coffee boom will soon be making its way to Corridor break rooms and cafeterias, thanks to a pioneering joint venture with roots in Cedar Rapids' flood recovery.

Cold Brew in the Corridor has begun offering refrigerated keg dispensing systems from Rapids Wholesale Equipment Company in Marion that dispense cold-brewed coffee from Brewhemia in Cedar Rapids.

Cold-brewed coffee is the fastest-growing trend in the coffee industry. Smoother and less bitter than regular iced coffee, it's fueling sales growth at national chains such as Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts.

The company sells and leases equipment for dispensing beer, along with other restaurant equipment, throughout much of the United States. In recent years, Rapids Wholesale has begun to accelerate its emphasis on innovation through employee teams that research and propose new opportunities.

Using its equipment to dispense cold coffee rather than cold beer was one of the ideas that floated to the top, according to Paul Adams, a company spokesman. The company had developed a dispensing system for cold coffee that seemed to perform well, and wanted to see how it would be received in an office setting. It began a search for a beverage partner with experience providing quality cold-brewed coffee.

The search didn't take long. During the flood evacuation of September 2016, Rapids Wholesale had provided Brewhemia in Cedar Rapids with a temporary storage location for some of its equipment. After the flood threat passed, Rapids Wholesale employees volunteered to help Brewhemia and other food service businesses in the evacuation zone get their equipment set back up and ready for reopening.

Brewhemia began testing out the Rapids Wholesale dispensing system at Mr. Shriver's other business, Eco Lips, and quickly saw it as a way to expand cold-brewed coffee sales by making it more convenient.

"We're making it [cold-brew coffee] more available to people by offering a tap system like a kegerator," said Mr. Shriver, the CBJ's 2014 Entrepreneur of the Year. "It looks like a beer tap, with cold-brewed coffee in one tap, and nitro cold brew in the other."

Customers can get nitro cold brew - coffee infused with nitrogen to give it a creamier feel - and regular cold brew in a single kegerator, or just one kind. They can also set up their own delivery schedule.

The arrangement may offer prices that are a little lower than coffee houses charge, although not by much. Cold Brew in the Corridor's standard product sells for $55 for a 2.5-gallon keg or $85 for a five-gallon keg - the equivalent of about 80 8-ounce servings. Nitro cold-brew is a little higher, at $65 for a 2.5-gallon keg and $95 for a five-gallon keg. The refrigerated coffee stays fresh for about a month.

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