City Council mulls historic building designations



Council members listen to a representative of the zoning commission during a city council meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017. (Nick Rohlman/The Daily Iowan)

The Iowa City City Council voted on numerous buildings to be registered as historical landmarks on Tuesday night.

Across from Currier Hall, a building built during the Civil War is up for debate on being a designated landmark.

Bob Crane has been the owner of the low- to middle-income housing unit at 410 and 412 N. Clinton St., across the street from UI dorms, for 40 years. The apartments do not house students but instead are catered to the population of Iowa City that can not make the average $822 monthly rent fee.

The Planning and Zoning Commission and Historical Preservation Commission recommended approval for these buildings to be considered a historical landmark.

The main issues with this for Crane and his lawyer, Christopher Jones, is that the property, unlike the rest of the buildings up for consideration of historical designation, is home to many individuals and families and the designation will damage property value.

Both Jones and Crane stated that behind the original 1865 building, an addition was added in 1965 to make room for more tenants. This comes into conflict for naming the entire property a historical landmark.

The original house holds nine tenants for $450 a month and the additional apartment rooms go for $560 a month.

“The primary structure on this lot is not the home but apartment addition,” Jones said. “The addition has no historical value, but if it is designated as a landmark, will need approval by the historic preservation to make changes despite its lack of historic integrity.”

Jones said one of the city’s goals for the neighborhood is to stabilize and improve property values, but going forth with this will impose restriction and hundreds and thousands of dollars lost in property value.

Bob Crane, who is 78 years old and has been a broker for 50 years, said he never would have believed a committee such as the Historical Preservation or the Planning and Zoning Commission would dictate his work.

“I didn’t expect a foreign committee to come in on what I have been doing well,” Crane said. “Now it is in front of City Council to be responsible for my property.”

Along with Crane’s property, numerous other concerned Iowa City citizens argued the idea of declaring 319 E. Bloomington St. a historical landmark.

Both arguments come down to the city and the commission offices choosing the houses over the people.

Councilor Susan Mims voted against both recommendations for the buildings to become historical landmarks.

“I have a lot of questions before I could support it,” she said. “I tend to not support these decisions when the property owners themselves do not support it.”

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