Iowa City’s Central Business District offered no alternative to low-quality, low-cost, multi-bedroom student housing. The architect and developer Marc Moen saw market potential for high-quality student living but, motivated to bypass tax increment financing to minimize design approval hurdles, overcoming budgetary constraints became a primary challenge. The solution minimizes material and maximizes leasable area below the high-rise construction threshold. Through-wall brick masonry carries a two-hour fire rating while providing sheer and bearing capacity on the property lines and adjacent to stair windows. The remainder of the façade is glazed curtain wall with perforated metal-faced HVAC units. The interior consists of sealed concrete floors and white walls; a solution with practical and aesthetic advantages. The walls, floors, and minimal detailing provide a refined backdrop for personal expression that minimizes short-lived finishes. At $106.34/sf for fit-out apartments and vanilla-shelled retail, the design met budget goals and served as a model for successful future developments. Twenty-four dwelling units above a street level coffee shop were 100% rented prior to construction completion and have remained in demand since completion in 2003. The unexpected market demand that the project exposed among established professionals fueled the subsequent Plaza Towers.
Iowa City, Iowa
2003 AIA Iowa Design Award