Zone of Confluence Strategic Initiative Advances
The Grinnell College initiative to improve the social, cultural and economic vitality of the area between the downtown business district and the college campus continues to advance. Last October, the college issued a request for proposals from potential development partners for property it owns in the Zone of Confluence area.
“In that call for proposals, we set the objective of adding 18-hour vitality to the downtown,” said Grinnell College President Raynard S. Kington. “We wanted to see what concepts private developers would bring to the table.”
“Supporting the vibrancy of the Grinnell community through developments in the Zone of Confluence is vitally important in accordance with the college’s strategic priorities. The success of the college and the city are interdependent, and both will benefit from growth of business and living opportunities created by developments such as this,” Kington said.
“A thriving downtown with diverse attractions helps the college recruit students, faculty and staff from around the world who benefit from our engaged community,” he added. “And a flourishing college adds greatly to everyone’s quality of life, and helps the city attract and retain residents and businesses.”
In order to help bring new development to the Zone of Confluence, the college purchased the former McNally’s property at 1021 Main Street in 2016 and is paying taxes for the site. The college pays property taxes on all of its land and structures that are not used for academic purposes.
Based on RFPs submitted, the college selected Grinnell Promenade, LLC, as a prospective partner to explore development opportunities for the Main Street property. Grinnell Promenade associates appeared before the Grinnell City Council’s Finance Committee on the morning of Monday, April 2, to request support for the developer’s Iowa Workforce Housing Tax Credit benefit application. The application to the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) seeks tax credits for a multiple story, mixed-use development of residences and retail space proposed for the old McNally’s site.
To meet state tax credit requirements, an applicant must submit a resolution in support of the housing development by the community where the development will be located. The finance committee submitted a resolution supporting the proposed development to the entire city council, which voted to approve passing the resolution at Monday night’s meeting.
In addition to supporting the application for state tax credits, the resolution requires the City Council to offer local matching funds of at least $1,000 or more per dwelling unit in the development, which would be located in the Grinnell Cultural and Historic District and the Grinnell Central Business District. Local matching funds, which would continue the revitalization of this area, are needed to qualify the proposed project favorably with the state of Iowa.
“We have been learning from community members about the types of development they would like to see in this area,” said John Kalkbrenner, assistant vice president for auxiliary services and economic development at Grinnell College. “Having potential developers begin exploring possible funding sources is a small but important preliminary step in the development process.”
“We’re thrilled that the college has been receiving attention from outside developers,” said Rachael Kinnick, executive director of the Grinnell Area Chamber of Commerce. “We know that the college still has a lot of work to do to settle on the right plan for the Zone of Confluence project, but we’re looking forward to working with them as well as with the city and the downtown business community to get to the ‘best fit’ project for Grinnell.”
The Zone of Confluence encompasses the area between the downtown central business district and the Grinnell College campus. The zone is between Fifth and Sixth avenues and between Park and West streets. The goal of the collaborative college-community development initiative is to create a better physical connection between campus and downtown through new mixed-use development, encouraging pedestrian traffic between the campus and downtown, and strengthening social and economic vitality in the downtown. Recognized by the state of Iowa in 2016 with an incentive through the Iowa Reinvestment District program, new developments generating new retail sales in Grinnell are eligible to begin receiving a tax rebate on retail sales they generate in 2020.