Micro-housing project brings simple living to Iowa City

Sustainable living meets minimalist flair in 7 S. Linn St., a new housing development next to Yacht Club.

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Courtesy of Neumann Monson

An arial view of 7 S. Linn St., a new sustainable housing development in Iowa City.

Charles Peckman, News Reporter

With floor-to-ceiling windows, sleek, modern lines, and a rooftop garden, an Iowa City building aims to bring a sustainable way of life to the heart of downtown.

The property, 7 S. Linn St., sits on the former site of the Van Patten House, which burned down in 2011. Since then, staffers at Neumann Monson Architects have set their eyes on creating a livable space on an admittedly small lot, Kevin Monson said.

“This space is all about how we can create an upscale, livable space, while also keeping in mind trends in sustainable living,” Monson said.

With that mentality in mind, he said, the plans for the building always included 300-square-foot studio apartments and 500-square-foot one-bedroom apartments. The building boasts 36 units.

Inside 7 S. Linn St., the spaces are a minimalist’s dream — although the angular fixtures, white walls, and fold-out Murphy bed (for the studio apartments) may portray an air of unfinished-ness to some, Monson said these choices were purposeful — the interiors, for example, contrast the hallways’ dark gray walls that allow the rooms to “open up” upon entering.

“If you look at countries around the world, so many cultures are already embracing the concept of micro-housing,” Monson said. “This ‘love of space’ is particularly American, and we wanted to bring housing units you see in New York and San Francisco to the Heartland.”

In addition to the sheer size of the units (and their corresponding “bare-bones” structure), the building also has induction cooking, communal washers/dryers, and a community garden on the roof — these features, marketing coordinator Jill Colbert said, are seldom seen in the Iowa City area.

“Some newer developments have washers and dryers in every unit,” she said. “Even though that may be convenient, every aspect of this [property] is engineered to be truly sustainable.”

Another aspect of the property, Monson said, is his goal of inter-generational living — pairing young professionals with retirees who wish to live in the heart of the city.

This mentality is shared by former UI Student Government City Council Liaison Ben Nelson — since the project’s inception, he said, he supported 7 S. Linn St. Although the sticker price is not aimed toward undergraduate students — a one-bedroom apartment is $1,299/month, according to Zillow — Nelson said this helps another problem faced by Iowa City.

“Iowa City, in general, has a lack of housing,” Nelson said. “We’ve seen newer housing developments for students with Rise and the Quarters, but after students graduate, there is a lack of housing for young professionals.”

This contributes to a substantial brain drain, Nelson said, in which graduates move to major metropolitan areas upon graduation. 7 S. Linn St. and properties similar to it help curb the problem.

“Really, you have to look at the situation of housing in Iowa City holistically,” Nelson said. “Properties that allow professionals to live downtown help bolster the economy, and sustainable practices will influence future developments in the city as well.”

Despite this forward-thinking mentality to housing, Monson said it is foolish to forget Iowa City’s past — surrounding 7 S. Linn St. are other Neumann Monson properties, all of which embody different architectural periods. While peering out one of the floor-to-ceiling windows in a one-bedroom apartment on the top floor of the building, Monson looked onto the roofs of Iowa City in a proud nature.

“We have to look forward, but we can’t forget our architectural roots,” he said.

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