The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Development group expresses interest in lot between Bluebird Diner, George’s Buffett

The group discussed preliminary development ideas with members of the northside neighborhood, including a mixed-use facility that would include housing.
District+C+Councilor+Andrew+Dunn+speaks+during+a+Iowa+City+City+Council+meeting+at+the+City+Hall+on+Tuesday%2C+Feb.+6%2C+2024.
Jordan Barry
District C Councilor Andrew Dunn speaks during a Iowa City City Council meeting at the City Hall on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024.

A development group in Iowa City approached members of the Northside neighborhood steering committee in December with preliminary plans for a potential development in the parking lot between Bluebird Diner and George’s Buffett.

The group, which included developer Ross Nusser from Urban Acres Real Estate, held the meeting to discuss development ideas with members of the neighborhood. Jim Throgmorton, former Iowa City mayor and member of the steering committee, said he was present at the meeting.

Throgmorton said there was no specific project proposed at the meeting, but just some ideas thrown around. The steering committee’s hope for the lot is a mixed-use facility that would include housing within it, he said.

Other topics of discussion in the meeting were potential heights for the building, as well as more creative uses for the lot, such as bicycle access, Throgmorton said.

Throgmorton said the steering committee was happy to discuss with Nusser, even if the plans are subject to change.

“We were impressed with what he presented, just in terms of the discussion, in terms of tentative stuff,” Throgmorton said. “We did not commit ourselves to anything — nor did he for that matter because he was in no position to commit himself.”

The Daily Iowan reached out to Nusser for comment but received no response.

Currently, the City of Iowa City owns the parking lot between Bluebird Diner and George’s Buffet. According to the Johnson County Assessor website, the property value for the lot has not been assessed by the city. The value of the lot that houses Bluebird Diner is nearly $970,000, and the lot that contains George’s Buffett is a little over $545,000.

In an email to the DI, Iowa City City Manager Geoff Fruin wrote there have been no formal offers from any interested developers, but there have been around six developers who have expressed interest in the lot over the last decade.

“The City has not made any determinations to sell our municipal parking lot and have not received any formal purchase offers or redevelopment applications,” Fruin wrote. “Surface parking lots are generally not [the] highest and best use in urban business districts and thus redevelopment could be a potential in the future.”

RELATED: IC residents advocate for downtown gathering space in open lot

If the city were to sell the lot, it would be required to go through a public process since it is publicly owned land. A public hearing would also be held by the city council where members of the community would have a chance to speak about the topic.

If the land, which is currently a commercial zone, was redeveloped by a private developer, the city would have to hold a public rezoning process, Fruin wrote.

This means the item would first go before the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission for them to approve or deny the redevelopment. Then, it would go to the city council for the councilors to make the final decision. In the meetings for both of these two entities, there are opportunities for the public to comment.

As of now, no formal decisions have been planned by the city, Fruin wrote.

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About the Contributor
Isabelle Foland, News Editor
(she/her)
Isabelle Foland is a second-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication and minoring in Spanish. She is a second-year news reporter at The Daily Iowan, reporting mainly on Iowa City City Council. She is from Missouri Valley, Iowa and has reported for her hometown paper prior to her time at The DI.