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East College Street

This redevelopment marries two seemingly competing goals: increased urban density and historic preservation. Initiated by a regional developer, the project rehabilitates five 19th-century buildings on Iowa City’s Pedestrian Mall while adding a 102-unit housing block in the heart of downtown. While remaining sympathetic to the site’s history, the project maximizes its use.


The original buildings were granted historic landmark status, saving them from future demolition, and renovated to activate the street with commercial tenants, including the Riverside Theatre. Non-original, mid-century additions on the alley side were removed to fit a 121,880 square-foot residential tower, with careful attention given to its height to minimize shadows and its visual presence on the Pedestrian Mall.  


At $228 per square foot, the tower was designed to be net-zero ready with all-electric systems and use 50% less water than baseline standards through low-flow fixtures. Units were organized to increase views and daylight in all living spaces.


Two lower parking levels elevate the units above the surrounding buildings, and an eastern elevator core placement allows for western views toward the river and campus. Communal spaces include a ground level-courtyard between the original buildings and tower and a lower rooftop space with views of downtown.  


Existing materials were touched lightly to preserve their character, with historic brick walls tuck-pointed and rebuilt where necessary. New materials were decidedly durable and sympathetic to the historic context.


Precast concrete panels enclosing the parking levels provided a canvas for a mural referencing cyanotype photography of the prairies that once grew on site. Corrugated weathering steel on the upper levels oxidized in place to express the warmth and temporality of the development.  


Project Type: Mixed-Use

Location: Iowa City, Iowa

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