Your Village: What’s happening at the corner of Lower Muscatine and 1st Avenue?

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First Ave. and Lower Muscatine, Iowa City, June 28, 2018. — photo by Zak Neumann

Do you know what is going happening on the corner of Muscatine and First Ave. in Iowa City? The two gas stations on that block are being dug up. One of them was my favorite BP station. – Rebecca, Iowa City, via Facebook

If, like Rebecca, you’re fond of that BP, there’s bad news. If, on the other hand, you’re a fan of the other convenience store involved, Kum & Go, the news is somewhat better.

The BP and the Kum & Go will be demolished and replaced with a much bigger Kum & Go, which will straddle both properties and also take up a slice of the neighboring Iowa City Hospice’s parking lot, which the Iowa-based chain of convenience stores purchased from the hospice.

“We expect to open a Marketplace-style store in the first quarter of 2019,” Kristie Bell, director of communications for Kum & Go, told Little Village in an email explaining the chain’s plans for the site.

According to Bell, “Marketplace stores are our larger format stores that feature an open kitchen with a real focus on fresh food, wide aisles, many fueling stations, seating areas, free WiFi & more!”

No matter how wide the aisles are or how many fueling stations the new store has, it’ll never be Kum & Go’s most famous building project. That distinction belongs to the chain’s corporate headquarters, because the company received millions in tax subsidies to build it.

Kum & Go is a successful company — in 2015, the year it was granted the tax breaks for its new headquarters, it had 432 stores in 11 states — and presumably didn’t need the $14.3 million investment tax credit the Iowa Economic Development Authority to break ground on the new building, or the $4.29 million in sales tax rebates on materials purchased for the project. It was also awarded a $20 million property tax rebate from the city of Des Moines.

Throwing tax breaks at already successful companies is standard practice in Iowa. Last year, Apple received $208 million dollars in state and local tax breaks and subsidies to build two data storage centers in Waukee, which the company said would create 50 permanent jobs. Earlier this year, the other Iowa-based chain of convenience store, Casey’s General Stores, received $5.7 million in state and local tax breaks and subsidies to build a 60,000 square foot expansion at its corporate headquarters in Ankeny.

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