Community members, business owners gather to discuss preservation of historic IC locations

Washington Street renovations
What is to become of the 100 block of Washington Street? — photo by Drew Bulman

A community forum to discuss the future of historic buildings in downtown Iowa City will take place Wednesday evening at MidWestOne Bank on the corner of Clinton and Washington streets. The meeting, sponsored by Friends of Historic Downtown, will begin at 6:30 p.m. with a brief guided tour of MidWestOne Bank’s recently restored headquarters on the 6th floor, followed by a discussion at 7 p.m.

Event organizer Rockne Cole says the goal of the forum, which will take place shortly after the tour, is to start a discussion between community members and business leaders about Iowa City’s lack of regulations preventing property owners from demolishing historic buildings downtown.

This meeting has been in the making since last April, when a proposal was made by developer Michael Frantz to build what Cole now refers to as a “five-story, $60 million glass box” between the Jefferson and MidWestOne Bank buildings on Washington Street in downtown Iowa City. At the time, Cole, a founding member of the sustainability advocacy group Iowa Coalition Against the Shadow (ICATS), worked with members of the local historic preservation community to organize a community gathering to discuss their concerns about Frantz’s proposal.

Cole says attendees to that meeting included Brown Bottle owner Dave Landau, MidWestOne Executive Vice President Kent Jehle, several current and former Iowa City city council members as well as concerned community members. After the meeting ended, Cole says MidWestOne Bank made it clear that, having heard the negative response from the community, they wouldn’t be moving forward with Frantz’ proposal.

“They’ve agreed that they’re not going to do the development, we had our meeting, got the community input and at least that part of it appears to be over,” Cole said. “So what’s next?”

“We want to understand what the community wants,” Frantz told We Create Here earlier this year, “[The Glass Building] knocked us all on our heels a little bit.”

Cole has since been meeting with members of the local historic preservation community, like Jayne McGuire, to try to find out what can be done to help safeguard historic properties downtown. McGuire is active in the Main Streets historic preservation program. Main Streets is an organization that helps communities identify and protect their historic assets, and it has already been implemented in several Iowa cities, including Ames and Le Mars. McGuire will be giving a short presentation at Wednesday’s meeting about the Main Streets program, and how it could be implemented in downtown Iowa City.

“I think there’s a lot of momentum on this particular topic,” Cole said. “The city did try in the early ’90s, but at the time, Iowa City in the ’90s did not have any of the modern glass developments, didn’t have the height, and the sense was that there wasn’t any need to do it because we already had a historic downtown. Now I don’t think we can be so confident … The street that The Airliner is on, there is no protection. So if you were to get a millionaire developer that just wanted to buy it and build a five story glass box, you could have a demolition permit within a week.”

“A lot of people don’t know that,” Cole said.


  1. Thank you for your article. Then let’s see someihtng about cosplay. You must be interested in it.Cosplay Get Its Own Magazine: Cosplay Gen is big. Very big. More than half of all kids at anime conventions these days are cosplaying .Relax, it’s nothing scary. Cosplay is just the Japanese word for dressing up in costume. You know, like you do on Halloween… except if you spent four months making your costume, and made all of the props yourself instead of buying everything out of a package at the temporary local Halloween Superstore .In an indication of just how big the international cosplay community is getting, May will see the launch of a new, English-language cosplay magazine out of Europe called Cosplay Gen. The 72-page issue #1 will include tons of photos, interviews, profiles, DIY tutorials and a pull-out poster. Pre-order your copy now and receive a free issue of Otaku Magazine .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


A collaboration between The Englert Theatre and FilmScene


Help us build the greatest small city for the arts in America—right here in Iowa City. Learn more »

Donate Today

Strengthen • Grow • Evolve is a collaborative campaign led by two Iowa City-based arts nonprofits, The Englert Theatre and FilmScene that seeks a major reinvestment to strengthen the arts through modern and historic venues, innovative programming, and new models of collaboration.

For 18 years...

Little Village has been telling the truth and changing our little corner of the world.

If you can, help us head into the next 18 years even stronger with a one-time or monthly contribution of $18, or any amount you choose.

Little Village
2019 Give Guide

Get to know some of the nonprofits helping to make the CRANDIC a better place to live.