South Dubuque cottages served with eviction notice, awaiting new inspection report

Three 130-year old cottages on South Dubuque are facing demolition for new development. Photo by Adam Burke
Three 130-year old cottages on South Dubuque are facing demolition. — photo by Adam Burke

A group of 19th-century cottages on the 600 block of South Dubuque Street underwent a new round of inspections Monday morning following a successful crowdfunding campaign organized by the Friends of Historic Preservation. The cottages are currently home to three businesses: Moy Yat Ving Tsun Kung Fu Academy, Suzie’s Antiques and Gifts and The Book Shop.

Friends of Historic Preservation hopes to challenge the findings of VJ Engineering’s Jim Jacob, hired by Hodge Construction, who said the buildings were unstable and ready for demolition. Hodge would like to build a four-story, mixed-use building in place of the existing cottages, and is currently negotiating with property owner Ted Pacha of Theo Resources, LLC.

In early November, Hodge filed for a rezoning application with the Iowa City Planning and Zoning Commission, but their motion was deferred for two weeks while preservationists agreed to provide for an independent structural inspection. On Friday, Nov. 21, Hodge Construction contacted city officials and withdrew its application for rezoning the 600 block of South Dubuque Street pending the results of the second inspection. However, the buildings are still facing demolition by the city.

Soon after the second inspection had taken place on Monday, a county sheriff dropped off a notice of eviction, giving The Book Shop owner Will Ingles until Jan. 1 to vacate his home and business.

Ted Pacha and Ingles were each given a notice to vacate due to structural instability, and the building itself is facing demolition. They need to address the violations by Dec. 8.

Friends of Historic Preservation director Alicia Trimble said she’s very confident the new inspection will show the building is sound or can be brought up to code.

Ingles has expressed doubt over the findings from Jacob’s inspection: He’s worked on his building over the years to address problems found during city inspections. He has nearly 500,000 books in his small cottage store, including a storage area behind the shop.

One thing that confounded preservationists is a missing inspection report from the city that showed the rental property was cleared for use last year.

The neighborhood is in the Riverfront Crossings district, an area south of downtown Iowa City that is targeted for revitalization by city planners. The three buildings in question have not been certified as historic landmarks, a designation that would protect them from encroachment.

Hodge Construction contends their development would increase the property’s assessed value from $1.08 million to more than $10 million.

Rezoned land must undergo a process that includes the upcoming deferred vote from the Planning and Zoning Commission, followed by a public hearing and three votes by the City Council.

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