When we opened Sidecar Coffee, we were part of a wave of development encouraged by the city’s 2011 creation of a TIF district on College Hill. We have loved the energy of the Hill and feel honored to be part of the community here. We’re grateful to the city for having the foresight and vision to help us bring our business idea into reality.
Many things have changed for the better on the Hill since 2011, and change has costs. It’s harder to park on the Hill now, for example. The full parking spaces are a symptom of success — the success of a large community of people who have invested money and time in the Hill, improving the area and creating a livelihood for themselves and others in the process. That’s something I’m proud to be part of and of which I believe city leaders should also be proud. As the City Council considers the proposed project at 925 W. 22nd St., here’s my hope: That we would respect the vision of those who came before us and the energy of those who are willing to work for a better future, and that we would not mistake the challenges of success for symptoms of failure.
The current zoning was put in place to encourage ambitious projects like the one proposed at 925 W. 22nd. There is a very small area on College Hill that allows this use — two and a half blocks of College Street. Creating this zone was a wise choice by city leaders who knew this is also the area of Cedar Falls with the most resident pedestrians. The proposed building occupies the only vacant space that could hold it in the C3 zoning area. If anything, city leaders should observe this project and, if it succeeds, extend and clarify the zoning to create more area zoned for this type of building and less confusion about whether progressive uses are allowed.
However, we don’t need to do any studies at all to know that the more successful a business district is, the farther you have to walk from your parking place. We don’t need to do any surveys to notice a five-story modern building represents a paradigm shift from the converted homes that now populate the area. Of course, this project represents change.
Sometimes change is bad. When the building at 2215 College was torn down and there was an empty lot in the middle of the Hill for 10 years, that was a bad change. When one of the Hill’s past business owners closed down and said in the Dec. 28, 2012, Courier “the last 18 to 24 months have been really, really brutal on the Hill,” that was a bad change.
In my view, this project is a good change — a new five-story mixed-use building that brings 130 more residents within walking distance of College Hill businesses and at the same time sets a new paradigm for development and raises the ceiling of what’s possible on College Hill. City staff and the Planning & Zoning Commission have given the green light to the project. I encourage the City Council to vote in favor of making it a reality.
Let’s push things forward.