CBJ Report: Transamerica plans $40M upgrade to its South Campus in CR

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Every week, the Corridor Business Journal shares stories it's working on with CBS2/FOX28. Here are some of their top stories that will appear in Monday's edition of the CBJ.

Transamerica plans $40M upgrade to its South Campus in CR

Transamerica is proposing a $40 million investment in the company's South Campus in Cedar Rapids as it consolidates operations from its North Campus on Edgewood Road to the company's south location at 6300 and 6400 C Street SW.

Plans include the renovation of the 160,000-square-foot former Hibu facility at 6300 C Street to house Aegon Asset Management and Aegon Global Technology, and renovation of the existing 320,000-square-foot Transamerica building at 6400 C Street. They also include a new 51,300-square-foot addition connecting the two buildings.

About 2,600 Transamerica and Aegon employees will be based at the South Campus. Preliminary plans call for a conference area to accommodate up to 400 people, a new cafeteria, open collaboration spaces, multiple meeting and training rooms, and a central entrance for all visitors. Enhancements to the campus are anticipated to take about two years to complete.

City council members on Tuesday backed a request from Transamerica, a unit of Netherlands-based Aegon NV, for tax incentives under the city's Community Benefit-Economic Development program. The $40 million investment planned by Transamerica would add about $30 million to the assessed valuation of the properties, which are currently assessed at $49.3 million.

The city's assistance program would provide a tax exemption that would begin at 80 percent of the added valuation, declining gradually to a 20 percent exemption over a 10-year period. About $4.7 million in taxes would be exempted over a 10-year period, while about $23.5 million in taxes would be paid.

City staff say the project qualified for the program because it will provide for the retention of existing Transamerica employees and represents a long-term commitment by the city to the community. Council Member Scott Overland urged the company to use a city program that incentivizes good stormwater retention and runoff practices, while Council Member Scott Olson wanted to know if the North Campus will remain empty.

Tata Consultancy Services, which will soon take over policy administration and become the employer of more than 800 former Transamerica workers in Cedar Rapids, has indicated it will lease buildings A and B on the North Campus.

Khairallah adds another property in redevelopment area

Efforts by Cedar Rapids businessman John Khairallah to redevelop an aging College District area appear to be moving ahead with his recent purchase of the MercyCare building at 1444 Second Ave. SE.

Mr. Khairallah acquired the 40-year-old medical facility, located on a 0.4-acre site, for $215,000 from Dr. Marian Barnes on March 1. MercyCare moved out of the building after its lease ended about one year ago, and is now located in the former PCI Building on Eighth Street SE, according to Mercy Medical Center spokeswoman Karen Vander Sanden.

The property is south of a row of properties Mr. Khairallah has acquired for redevelopment in the 1400 block of First Ave., including the Music Loft and China Inn buildings, and an older home converted into apartments.

Mr. Khairallah has plans to redevelop a half-block parcel in the 1400 block of First Avenue SE. The plans include a row of retail storefronts with approximately 10,000 square feet of leasable space facing First Avenue with parking in the back.

On the north side of the 1400 block, builder Brian Hancock and Realtor Brent Votroubek recently sought tax incentives for a $6.4 million redevelopment project that is expected to bring Scooter's Coffee, a Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches and some 26 apartments to the area.

Governor signs bill to end credit freeze fees

Starting July 1, Iowans will pay no fees to place or remove a freeze on access to their credit reports, as a result of Senate File 2177, proposed by the Iowa Attorney Tom Miller and signed into law on Tuesday by Gov. Kim Reynolds.

"I just don't think these fees are fair to Iowa consumers, and the Equifax case is Exhibit A," Mr. Miller said in a statement, adding that Iowans pay some of the highest freeze-related fees in the nation to credit reporting agencies. "If a company you have no control over exposes your personal information through negligence or as a result of someone else's criminal act, you shouldn't get left holding the bag simply because you want to protect yourself from identity thieves through credit freezes."

The bill, passed unanimously in both houses, was proposed following the Equifax data breach disclosed in September, affecting 1.1 million Iowans and 143 million consumers nationwide. Mr. Miller and a bipartisan group of state attorneys general continue to investigate the data breach.

Equifax agreed to temporarily waive its credit freeze-related fees following heavy criticism by the public and lawmakers, but plans to reinstate the fees after June 30 in states that allow them. In addition, most Iowa consumers must pay to freeze and lift credit report freezes from each of the two other major credit reporting agencies, Experian and TransUnion.

The bill signed by the governor prohibits credit reporting agencies from charging fees for "placing, removing, temporarily suspending or reinstating a security freeze." The bill also shortens time, from five days to three, that a credit reporting agency must start the security freeze once requested.

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