City Council delays rezoning vote for downtown high-rise again


Joseph Cress

Iowa City City Hall is seen on Tuesday, April 18, 2017.

It looks like it will be at least another month to find out how tall the Pentacrest Garden Apartments project will be.

At its meeting on the night of July 3, the Iowa City City Council deferred its first consideration to rezone 3.41 acres between Burlington and Court Streets known as the Pentacrest Garden Apartments from a high-density multifamily residential to Riverfront Crossing South Downtown subdistrict.

Mayor Jim Throgmorton said the project’s development team requested a deferral until Aug. 7. The councilors discussed the topic but didn’t say how they intended to vote. All of the councilors agreed with the motion to defer until Aug. 7 on a 6-0 vote. Councilor Mazahir Salih was absent. As with any ordinance, the issue will need to be voted on three times to pass.

The councilors have been divided on the issue since the first deferral during the May 15 meeting. The council then moved discussion to the May 29 meeting in which they took an informal vote that resulted 3-3. Salih was absent at that meeting as well.

If the ordinance passes, it would allow the building to reach eight stories with a possibility of an additional seven floors if granted by the city with approval from the Federal Aviation Administration. The current maximum height in the building zone is 35 feet or three stories. The concept that has been submitted has plans to build 15 stories.

A couple members of the community voiced their concerns about who would construct the project, saying a separate project, Rise at Riverfront Crossings, used out of state, nonunion workers to build the complex, and they don’t want the Pentacrest Gardens project to do the same.

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Throgmorton said he submitted a memo to the council on June 28 supporting the rezoning in a general sense.

“I also indicated I thought it would be important to consider several possible conditions on rezoning,” he said. “The public has been given a misleading impression on what the majority of the council has intended to do. I see a desire for high-quality urban design that will enable students to mature safely and to thrive academically in whatever buildings are constructed.“

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Councilor John Thomas said if the project is pursued, it would be one of the most prominent buildings in Iowa City and he would want it to further the Climate Action Plan.

“It’s also frustrating to me to hear members of the community say that I or any members of the council are opposed to higher density,” he said. “Questions of density done well and carbon-emission reduction are very important issues.”

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Councilor Kingsley Botchway said he wants to hear more student voices when talking about the project.