The Mill set for demolition, plans for new arts venue in motion

The Mill, once a beloved Iowa City spot for live music, food, and art, will soon be demolished, but local property owner Moen Group plans to use the property to build a new venue that continues to foster Iowa City’s artistic community.


Gabby Drees

A demolition notice paper can be seen on the outside of the building where The Mill was formerly located in Iowa City on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022.

Olivia Augustine, Arts Reporter

What was once a beloved establishment of music and art on Burlington Street is now trashed with broken glass, crushed beer cans, and empty bags of chips – and is soon set for demolition. But the Mill — which closed in 2020 — might have its values carried on in a new arts venue set to take its place.

The Mill restaurant and arts venue opened in 1962. In its time, it hosted artists like Joe Price, Bo Ramsey, and David Zollo. The most recent owners, Dan Ouverson and Marty Christensen, ran the Mill for 17 years before closing it down.

Marc Moen of development business Moen Group , which owns several other buildings in Iowa City including the Chauncey and Plaza Towers, acquired the property where the Mill stands in 2002. In a statement on the Mill’s website, Moen Group expressed sadness at the Mill’s closing, but excitement at the new possibilities that may come with a new venue planned to take its place.

“While we cannot preserve the old structure of the Mill, we will carry forward its values and build a venue that nurtures the local arts culture, acts as a community gathering space, and attracts up and coming national performers,” Moen Group announced in the release. “We are thrilled to design a space that will be artist, audience, and venue-operator friendly. A state-of-the art performance venue.”

Kevin Monson, a co-founder of Neumann Monson Architects, has been a key collaborator in creating a new venue, and said he’s worked with Moen on several projects.

“Marc is a visionary. He is ahead of his time,” he said. “The development work he’s done in Iowa City has really lifted the culture and the feel of downtown Iowa City, and I give him a lot of credit for taking risks when others may have not.”

Monson said that the plan for the Mill’s property is early in the design process, and there is still a long way to go, but said he plans for the new building to be a multi-purpose venue that provides opportunities for community collaboration. The building will also be specifically designed to cater to performers.

FilmScene has also collaborated with Moen Group on previous projects. Andrew Sherburne, FilmScene’s executive director and co-founder, wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan that he believes Moen Group’s appreciation for the arts will help them deliver on carrying out the original values of The Mill.

“[The Moen Group] recognize that they have an opportunity to carry forward the spirit of The Mill by creating a new space. It’s a weighty responsibility,” he wrote. “Their long-standing arts patronage, support, and development work shows that they ‘get it’ and they are committed to the work.”

Moen said he has been in discussion with several local arts and entertainment organizations to help shape the new venue, including the Englert.

John Schickedanz, executive director and marketing director of the Englert, wrote in an email to the DI that he hopes the new venue will maintain a “vibrant performing arts ecosystem in Iowa City.” Though he noted the Englert was saddened by the loss of The Mill, he added that he is hopeful the new venue will help the Iowa City arts scene grow.

“More than anything, we want the community to be able to come downtown on a whim and encounter performances that they’re really excited about or willing to take a chance on without  having tickets before they leave home,” he wrote.