Article: November 12, 2015
As part of early planning that led to the first houses being built in the Peninsula Neighborhood ten years ago in 2003, the City of Iowa City purchased portions of the western part of the peninsula in 1995 using general Funds and HUD Supplemental CDBG Flood Relief funds. The area was developed using both conservation design and traditional neighborhood design principles (the lower peninsula that now accommodates the dog park was designed as passive parkland so that new homes would not be developed in the floodplain). Through a multi-session design charrette conducted in 2000 by Dover Kohl & Partners involving community members and a team of design professionals, a master plan was created to develop a neighborhood of approximately 400 units with traditional design principles. As has come to pass, the neighborhood was planned to have a mix of vintage-style housing types to satisfy various lifestyles and incomes.
Traditional houses, as well as condominiums such as three-level townhouses and stacked flats in multilevel buildings, were situated closer to the streets and designed with front porches and balconies to encourage activity and social interaction along the streets and in other public spaces. This was to be similar to the community experienced in many of Iowa City’s older traditional neighborhoods. Garages were to be located on alleys or set back from the front of houses, and a good number of the garages would have rentable “granny flats” above them. Streets in the Peninsula Neighborhood were designed to be narrower and interconnected in order to reduce traffic speeds and increase safety, making them friendly to pedestrians (and their pets), bicycles and cars. The plan provided opportunities for live/work units and a small amount of commercial space to serve the residents of the peninsula.
Through a competitive process the Peninsula Development Company was selected to develop the 45-acre neighborhood, and the first residences were slated for construction completion in 2003. Ferrell Madden and Associates, as implementation urban designer and form-based code writer, worked with the developer, marketing professionals, engineers, architects, building contractors, and city officials to transform the schematic plan into reality, and to incorporate its standards into the Peninsula Neighborhood’s Covenants and Deed Restrictions so that carefully planned building could begin.
In the ten years since the first Peninsula Neighborhood homes took shape on Foster Road, there have been four successive skilled managers of the ongoing development. Alan Swanson of Blank & McCune, which has been the key real estate company in the neighborhood since 2003, said each of the managers brought good skills to the project, but pointed out that it was the arrival of Pat Stewart as the project manager in 2009 and the leadership staff he brought aboard, especially assistant project manager Amy Pretorius, that “turned things around.” Swanson said that while “the city staff, citizen-planners, and Peninsula Development staff always stayed with the vision, it was difficult at first to attract people to buy into the idea because only a few wanted to be “first.” He added that when Stewart came aboard, dramatic improvements such as landscaping and other amenities began to get more notice. Also, Swanson said, “with the Stewart team’s attention to detail, ability to build multiple properties at once, good service to owners, and close alignment with professional real estate marketing, more people began to see the neighborhood’s desirability."
The vision of how the entire neighborhood would look dramatically started to take shape after a change of pace was allowed in 2009. Iowa City itself initially owned all the land, and its agreement called for it to sell portions in phases to the development group every two years. At the beginning at least 50 percent of a phase had to be finished before the next phase could be purchased. In 2009 the City Council approved Stewart’s and the Peninsula Development Company’s request that it be allowed to purchase the next phase when 50 percent of the total lots it owns were developed, rather than 50 percent of the lots in each phase. “This was a dramatic event that further sparked the growth experienced since then,” Swanson said. “Building accelerated and was more concentrated, so potential owners could actually see and feel the friendly small-town-like ambiance taking shape, and more and more people wanted to be a part of it.”
Critical to the success of the project from “day one” were Iowa City planning staff such as Robert Miklo, Senior Planning, Urban Development; Jeff Davison, Director, City Planning and Development (CPD); and Karin Franklin, former CPD director (now retired). Also key to the Peninsula Neighborhood’s long road to success were members of successive city councils. One of these who has been on the council since the beginning of the development’s conceptual planning is Connie Champion. Also important to the project were those who wanted to be living there from the very beginning—one of these “pioneers” is Patrick Riepe (and family).
On the tenth anniversary of the construction of the Peninsula Neighborhood’s first house in 2003, we asked Miklo, Champion, and Riepe for comments on the long and now successful path of the project (click to read comments).
Article: May 14, 2013