New ‘historic’ homes may come to 400 block of Park Avenue

Posted: Sunday, January 13, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 2:39 pm, Tue Jan 15, 2013.

By Tim Rohwer – Daily Nonpareil

A local developer says it is “doable.”

So do Council Bluffs officials. Efforts are being made to develop a vacant stretch in the Park/Glen Neighborhood with homes to fit the historical characteristics of that area.

Officials have just sent requests for proposals to potential developers to build at least four single-family homes meeting certain historical characteristics in the 400 block of Park Avenue.

Proposals are to be returned to the Community Development Department no later than March 1, said spokeswoman Brenda Carrico.

“You always hope for a good response,” she said.

Over a period of time, the city acquired titles through the court system to the properties located at 401, 409, 431, 435 and 441 Park Avenue. Efforts to seek improvements on those houses were unsuccessful.

“We boarded them up for years,” Carrico said.

A study last year found renovation of the homes there was financially unfeasible, she said. Five structures were recently demolished. One of the city’s objectives in redeveloping that property is building residential structures consistent with the historic character of the immediate area. The Park/Glen Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“This is very important to the city,” said Don Gross, director of the Community Development Department. “Approximately 50 percent of the scoring (developer selection) is design.”

Gross said other cities have probably done a similar project, but the actions here are not modeled after any outside models.

“The city owns six lots and we want to sell them and see what development happens,” he said. “This is not really any different than the city selling lots in the Nash Boulevard subdivision or north of Sunset Park.”

Carrico described the neighborhood’s character as being in the late 19th Century Victorian style with homes being at least two stories and featuring a wrap-around porch and gable-type roofs.

“I think they are on the right track,” said John Jerkovich, a local developer.

Many so-called in-fill homes, those being built in the heart of the city, are two-story structures, he said.

Gross doesn’t think the historical requirements will be difficult for developers.

“We don’t believe so. Constructing a two-story structure with a gable roof and a front porch would go a long way at matching the scale, density, and character of the neighborhood. It’s not a question whether builders can build homes at this location. We have many qualified and capable builders in this community. The question is, can they sell the homes?

The six lots have been appraised for $67,700, which equates to $11,283 per lot, according to Gross.

“The city is obligated to sell the property for appraised value, which is $67,700,” he said. “However, we would consider financing the value of the lots for the right project.”

At least four structures have to be built to qualify for Enterprise Zone tax benefits that encourage development, Carrico said.

Based on financial needs, the city will consider various options on the sale of the land. In addition, property tax abatement may be available for eligible housing projects.

“We’re willing to participate financially in projects based on needs,” Carrico said.

That’s good, according to Jerkovich.

“It can be doable if the price doesn’t get too high,” he said. “Don and Brenda are open-minded and great to work with.”

“We assume that the need to build the homes to fit the historic nature of the neighborhood could have some costs, but not to an amount that would make the project unfeasible,” Gross added.

Following the March 1 deadline, she and other department officials will recommend a developer to the City Council at its late March meeting, Carrico said.

With approval, the chosen developer would have two years to complete the project, she said.

If for some reason there aren’t any takers for this project, the city would wait and try again when market conditions improve, Gross said. Nevertheless, there has been interest already, he quickly said.

“I think it will be OK,” Jerkovich said.

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