CBJ Report: IC rental cap ordinance passes easily despite renter concerns

CBJ Report

IC rental cap ordinance passes easily despite renter concerns

Concerns from some renters did not derail a proposal in Iowa City to set a cap of 30 percent on permits for single-family and duplex building rentals in areas with high levels of rental housing.

The Iowa City Council voted 6-0 Tuesday to approve the ordinance, which also strengthened minimum requirements for rental housing. Council member Pauline Taylor was absent.

The ordinance is the city's answer to a new state law barring restrictions against renting based on familial relationships. Iowa City and many other communities had set limits on the number of unrelated persons in a property to reduce the number of rentals in predominately single-family neighborhoods, where they have led to noise and other nuisance complaints.

Among the neighborhoods that could see no new permits because of the cap are Brookland, Bowery, North Side, College Green and Riverfront Crossings east and west. Those areas already have rental housing percentages well above 30 percent.

Discussions of the ordinance brought forth concerns from renters and University of Iowa student government that it could lead to higher rents and lower availability of student rentals within walking distance of the University of Iowa. However, some also applauded the possibility that the ordinance could lead to improved maintenance of properties. Landlords who have rental permits revoked because of unaddressed code violations would not be able to get new permits for properties in the neighborhoods covered by the caps.

Art Tech Village project advances in CR

The proposed $25 million Art Tech Village development in NewBo came a little closer to reality on Nov. 30 after the Cedar Rapids Planning Commission recommended a rezoning of 2.5 acres on the 16th Avenue extension.

Project plans call for 107 apartments on three upper floors, including economical apartments that can be used for short-term rentals by entrepreneurs in the nearby Iowa Startup Accelerator and a small number of executive suites. The 34,000 square feet of first-floor space will be office or retail.

Hatch Development Group is seeking the rezoning of two parcels on the east side of the 16th Avenue SE extension, which is under construction, and south of Fifth Street SE. The request seeks a change to a C-3 Regional Commercial Zone from two different uses: R-3D two-family residential and I-2 Industrial. No site plan has been submitted, but one will be submitted before the project goes through a required design review process.

Hatch Development Group's Dale Todd said the company plans to break ground in spring 2018 for the project. He said it will also utilize a parcel of land which already has the appropriate zoning that is owned by Art Tech Village investor Eric Engelmann.

Mr. Engelmann is preparing for a sabbatical from his role as executive director of NewBoCo, which operates the Iowa Startup Accelerator (ISA). He is chairman of Geonetric, which shares the building in which the accelerator program is located. He has described the shortage of affordable short-term housing in the area as one of the challenges for attracting entrepreneurs to the ISA.

Art Tech Village is "geared toward artists and entrepreneurs," according to a city staff memo. While the design has not been finalized, Mr. Todd said it will incorporate a bike trail and industrial design elements reminiscent of the area's rich industrial history.

Mt. Vernon sales pave way for new Main Street businesses

Four historic storefronts in Mount Vernon averaging more than 150 years old have sold in the past two months, making way for a new singalong pub, a new gallery and more future uses.

SR&D Inc., led by Sam Jennison of Burlington, acquired the restored building at 100 First St. SE, where he will open Singalong Bar & Grill. A 1910 player piano will provide the musical accompaniment for singalongs, Mr. Jennison said, providing an alternative to digital diversions.

The 161-year-old building has 2,440 square feet of ground floor retail space with apartment space above. Mr. Jennison is the father of Joe Jennison, director of the Mount Vernon-Lisbon Community Development Group, and a veteran entrepreneur.

The former Maya's storefront at 121 First St. NW was acquired for $175,000 by Robert and Denise Murphy for their recently opened gallery and event space, Mount Vernon Creates. The gallery will feature the works of area artists, including the owners, and serve local wines in the 126-year-old space.

Meredith Hoffman acquired the former location of Big Creek Emporium, which closed earlier this year at 100 First St. SW, from Karen Thornton. The 148-year-old storefront has 1,400 square feet of apartment space on the second floor and retail below. It sold for $180,000 to Ms. Hoffman, who recently hosted a pet adoption event in the space, and is seeking a long-term tenant who "really wants to be a fixture in our community." Ms. Hoffman, a Realtor, is completing some improvements before listing the space.

The Mount Vernon-Lisbon Sun newspaper office at 108 First St. SW was sold as part of the acquisition of the West Branch communications newspaper chain to Woodward Communications for $132,000. The building, constructed in 1860, has 1,600 square feet of retail space on the ground floor and apartment space above.

The highest price per square foot was paid for 100 First St. SE. It sold for the equivalent of $76.78 per square foot.

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