College Hill makeover

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  • Concept art for the proposed apartment complex, The Landing, which will replace Ginger’s.

  • Great Wall burned to the ground in April 2016. Reconstruction has started.

  • Urban Flats is still under construction and is scheduled to open May 2017. It will be a combination of commercial and residential spaces.

  • Little Bigs opened Nov. 7, 2016, which replaced Beck’s Taproom Grill.

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The burning of Great Wall on the corner of 22nd and College Street in April of 2016 has ignited a series of new projects up and down the Hill, bringing apartments, restaurants, a bakery and more. UNI students are anticipating the changes brought about by this shake-up at the epicenter of Cedar Falls night life.

“I would love to see more food options on the Hill. The more variety, the better,” said Sam Arndt, a sophomore manufacturing engineering technology major.

Two apartment complexes are expected to provide more options for student living directly on the Hill.

Urban Flats, an apartment construction project located on 23rd Street between University Book and Supply and Third Eye Tattoo and Gallery, is nearing completion. These apartments, developed by UNI alumni Brent Dahlstrom and Ryan Kriener, are just a taste of what is to come in 2018.

Dahlstrom and Kriener are taking on another residential project as well. The Landing, a five-story apartment complex offering ground-level parking and various apartment options close to campus, is slated to occupy an L-shaped area behind the previous location of Great Wall Chinese Restaurant. The Landing will take the place of Ginger’s and IPPA to the west and border Great Wall’s former parking lot to the north.

“We are hoping that the buildings are a new, fresh design,” Kriener said.  “It just keeps encouraging landlords to improve and update their units, just to make it a more vibrant area.”

According to the project developers of The Landing, around 3,000 square feet on the ground level of the building will be reserved for retail spaces. Kriener said there is interest in having a national chain restaurant located in a portion of that space along with other businesses.

Urban Flats will also have retail space available, which a locally owned restaurant is likely to occupy.

Dave Deibler, the Co-owner of Octopus College Hill and Mohair Pair and former president of the College Hill Partnership, said this type of expansion is exactly what the area needs.

“I think there is a lot of room for growth, and I’m very happy with the development that is going on,” Deibler said. “What I want is a lot more density and a lot more businesses. I want more people to live down here so they don’t have to get in car. They can walk and ride their bikes and we need to provide more services, more places to eat, more varied businesses.”

With the addition of the two apartment complexes and their featured retail space, the Hill will be seeing more vehicle and pedestrian traffic. The matter of parking has been raised as a concern in the past. However, Deibler does not see it being an issue for his businesses.

“I know a lot of people are concerned about parking,” Deibler said. “I think having parking problems is a sign that your neighborhood is successful.”

Although a full parking lot may be a sign of a prosperous neighborhood, Deibler acknowledged that extra parking is never a bad thing to have available.

“I know we need more parking, but we have a parking ramp that sits empty,” Deibler said.

Deibler estimated that the parking garage located on 23rd Street behind Bartlett Hall is, on average, 17 percent unoccupied.

“Every time I drive to the Hill I have a hard time finding a spot close to where I’m going,” said Molly Daugherty, a junior finance and real estate major. “I always find a place eventually, but it would be more convenient to have additional parking lots.”

As construction looks to improve the overall aesthetic of the area, parking does not seem to be a major factor in the plans to redevelop  the Hill. The main goal of the College Hill Partnership (CHP) is to create an attractive atmosphere.

The CHP utilizes tax increment financing (TIF) to aid in the betterment of the area.

Deibler said the CHP plays the role of an invisible hand, which helps the small business owners accomplish things they could not do alone.

“I think the original intention [of the CHP] was to create something that’s maybe similar to the community of Main Street,” Deibler said. “But [they] realized that College Hill is a lot different than downtown Cedar Falls. It is just a different world with different needs.”

Although Main Street is a popular destination for many diners and shoppers, the Hill often attracts a different crowd.

According to Deibler, the Hill is not historic like Main Street; as the atmosphere is younger and more energetic.

While the new businesses bring new life to the Hill, offering new housing and dining options, Arndt said it is not why he goes to College Street.

“It would be nice to have some new places to get food, but when I think of the Hill, I think booze. To me, Main [Street] is where the food is,” said Arndt.

Great Wall Chinese Restaurant is set to return in a new commercial structure occupying the space of their former parking lot on College Street. The construction design proposed by Levi Architecture of Cedar Falls accommodates four spaces in total, leaving room for three other tenets.

The opening of Little Bigs, residing where Beck’s once did, marked the beginning of several new projects on the Hill.

Andrea Geary will soon be opening Milkbox Bakery in the space formerly occupied by La Calle on College Street. Milkbox Bakery will sell homemade breads, pastries, croissants, doughnuts, cookies, cakes and more. Geary told the Courier that she is hoping the new location will be a nice place to build a community.

It is unknown whether the owners of Gingers or IPPA intend on reopening at a new location in the future.