New South District Market now open in Pepperwood Plaza

The market will include four restaurant or retail spaces, a food court area, and more.


Matt Sindt

People gather to order and eat food during the grand opening of Royceann’s Soul Food Restaurant in the South District Market in Iowa City on Saturday, March 25, 2023.

Hannah Lipski, News Reporter

New year-round business options are coming to Iowa City’s South Side.

The South District Market opened its doors March 28, celebrating the opening of a new retail space in Pepperwood Plaza.

Located at 947 US-6, the building space is just under 39,000 square feet and holds four restaurant or retail spaces, a food court, and a self-storage unit.

Map by Jami Martin-Trainor/The Daily Iowan

Formerly a Slumberland Furniture store, the property owners were initially planning to turn the entire building into self-storage. When Wendy Ford, the economic development coordinator for the City of Iowa City, heard that the property owners of where the District Market currently sits wanted to build a storage facility, she said her heart sank. Ford said the city had other plans for the space that were more beneficial to the community.

“The city suggested that they do something to activate the storefront area,” Ford said. “The suggestion was made to put that storage in the back portion of the building.”

The community members got their wish after the property owners announced in July 2022 that the space would be turned into a year-round indoor market.

Angie Jordan, South of 6 Iowa City Business District executive director, said the property owners wanted to prioritize what members of the community wanted to do with the space.

One of the biggest requests was to have a restaurant central to the South District, she said.

“We’ve never had a place to sit down and eat and meet in this part of town before,” Jordan said. “You had to travel outside to do that.”

As the executive director of the South of 6 Iowa City Business District, which was recently renamed from Self-Supported Municipal Improvement District, Jordan’s role is to unify the new business district and increase foot traffic, customers, events, and excitement.

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Additionally, Jordan is tasked with transforming the area south of Highway 6, which could be considered a geological border from the south to the east of Iowa City. The South Iowa City Business District was started in April 2022 and is the newest commercial district in Iowa, Jordan said.

“Recruiting and getting folks excited to start up businesses over here and then working really hard to retain them and serve their needs,” she said. “But a lot of what we’re doing is the continuation of revitalization on this side of town.”

Chris Villhauer, SouthGate Properties commercial property manager, said the property owners hope to have a coffee shop, a bakery, and a store where an artist can sell work in the spaces in the market that are open for rent.

“To expand on that, is have people who would do local artwork, you know, pictures, so they can hang on the wall to kind of decorate the walls,” Villhauer said.

Villhauer said the two floors of climate-controlled self-storage in the market will operate through Bluetooth on renters’ phones. The self-storage will contain 600 units.

Additionally, with the prospect of a space for artists to show their work in the South District Market, Villhauer said more local art will reach the community and be sold throughout Iowa City while also being promoted.

Currently, the first person to lease space in the South District Market is Johnson County Board of Supervisor Royceann Porter, who opened a soul food restaurant. The restaurant had its grand opening on March 25.

At the opening, Porter said she was grateful for the support she received from the Iowa City community. The market’s website states that two to three new vendors will be opening in spaces in the market soon.

“Today has been very overwhelming, very overwhelming. But it’s awesome, the support. The love of the community has been tremendously wonderful,” Porter said.