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The Mill is gone, its building soon to be demolished. But plans to replace it are in the works.


The Mill restaurant and performance venue, 120 E Burlington St, Iowa City — Zak Neumann/Little Village

The iconic Iowa City venue The Mill closed in 2020 after 58 years of hosting music, literary readings, political events and more. And after plans to possibly revive it fell through, the building on Burlington Street that was home to The Mill for 48 year has stood empty for a year and a half, and is now scheduled to be torn down.

But that doesn’t mean Iowa City is permanently losing a performance venue at that location.

“We are fully committed to including a purpose-built intimate performance venue as part of the new development on the Mill site,” Marc Moen, who has owned the property since 2002, said in a written statement on Wednesday.

Moen said that like many in Iowa City and beyond, he was “dismayed by the Mill’s closing in 2020.” According to Moen, since the Moen Group acquired the property 20 years ago, “we did everything we could to assure the Mill continued to operate” and had made a “commitment to the Mill owners … to incorporate the Mill into a new building when the site was developed.”

“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.”

In an email to Little Village, Moen said, “We have been in discussions with a number of local arts, entertainment and design people to help shape this new venue.”

Architect Kevin Monson of Neumann Monson Architects is one of those working on the project.

“We’ve been working on a concept for about a year for that site,” he told Little Village. “To redevelop it as the original Mill structure was just becoming a hazard.”

Monson said they had been working on how “to envision what a new live-entertainment venue could look like, to get the best idea to live up to our ambition to be the greatest little city for the arts.”

“And we want to bring back what so many of us loved, the type of entertainment and vibe of the old Mill.”

The design will aim to “highlight the entertainers performing a little better, with better sight-lines for everyone.”

And of course, the new design will be done with COVID-19 mitigation in mind.

“COVID is going to change everything going forward as to how we design spaces for larger groups,” he said.

Plans for the new venue are still in early stages.

“I would anticipate we’re going to be in design for almost another year, and then possibly two years in construction,” Monsoon said. “It’s a long process.”

Demolition on The Mill’s building is likely to begin this week.

A glimpse back at The Mill in its prime:


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