City leaders uncertain over 15-story Pentacrest Garden height proposal


    The developers also need to present a plan to include affordable housing within the project before a final decision is made on how how many stories can be built.

    The Iowa City skyline could see some development in the near future.

    Four student-housing and commercial buildings are being proposed, but the city is not ready to commit on how high those buildings can go.

    City leaders approved the rezoning of Pentacrest Garden Apartments in the fall so developers could build up to eight stories. Now they are going back and forth over how many more stories can be added to the building.

    "It's the right project for the right site," said Rob Decker, Project Lead of Axiom Consultants.

    Decker said there is a lot community support for the 15-story multi-use student housing project. However, not everyone on the council supports the height proposal.

    "I think the height is excessive, the mass scale height is excessive. It needs to be scaled down and built incrementally over a period of time," said Mayor Jim Throgmorton.

    The Mayor said each building should not go over 12 stories.

    "The question facing our community is whether we want to compromise on a potential two-hundred million dollar project over 3 stories," said Iowa City Council Member Rockne Cole.

    Developers said adding three more stories is more cost effective and will provide more student-housing off campus.

    "Right now the city of Iowa City is at about 2 percent in terms of vacancy. We need to get some more slack in that housing market so we can have lower rent prices," said Cole.

    It is not just about height, according to the Mayor. Undecided council members question how the developers will accommodate thousands of students who will want to live there.

    They also have not seen what the final product will look like.

    "They can't formally vote to grant that height right now because there's not a design presented to staff for them to vote on," said Decker.

    However, Decker said his team does not want to start designing if they do not know how high they can go.

    "We'll pull the trigger if you will on design when we have a level of comfort that warrants moving that forward," he said.

    The developers also need to present a plan to include affordable housing within the project before a final decision is made on how how many stories can be built.

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