An update on the Iowa City infill development brouhaha

Short on time with chores to do before the Packers game, today’s disgust is a follow up from an earlier post.  Below is an op-ed from the owner of the buildings on East Washington that currently house the Red Avocado and Defunct books and are being turned into an infill development.  This move of course is what led to the petition that led to the plans for redevelopment on North Linn to be rescinded.

Development would benefit College Green neighborhood, from the Iowa City Press-Citizen Jan. 9, 2012.

I have read the numerous contributions on the petition to save the Red Avocado restaurant. It is a wonderful tribute to a unique local business.

It is unfortunate that none of those people have the facts. I have owned the properties, the B&B building since 1976, the building housing the Red Avocado Restaurant and Defunct Books since 1994, and the Inn since 2004. After the first year lease with a new tenant, I did not have leases and therefore we were mutually on a month to month agreement.

Dawn’s Beads (now under new ownership as Beadology), after a tenancy of several years, actually gave me one month notice that they were moving to their present location. The space was vacant for four months until a new tenant was secured.

For anyone to say that the tenants were evicted or forced to leave is incorrect. In fact, both tenants knew as of May 2011 that I was leaving the neighborhood and the houses would be sold by the end of the year.

For years, the Red Avocado has had first right of refusal to buy the building. I also offered to sell to Defunct Books. Both refused the offer before I sold to the present developers. They both had ample opportunity to search for other locations for their businesses. Additionally, another developer was in discussions with New Pioneer to possibly purchase. So this sale was no secret to the parties involved.

Those who decry demolishing those “beautiful buildings” don’t have a clue how they got that way or how much time, effort and money it took to get and keep them that way. After borrowing hundreds of thousands of dollars to physically improve the properties and 21 years of picking up tossed beer cans and trash, discarded cigarette butts, panties, bras, shoes and whatever else one can think of, cultivating the gardens on three properties, shoveling snow off sidewalks and parking lots, getting up at 5 a.m. to fix breakfast and wait up until 2 a.m. for late arriving guests, at age 69 I believe I have earned the right to change my lifestyle and move on to a new endeavor. I did not move the bed and breakfast to Michigan. I merely closed the Iowa City location.

The wonderful restaurant is not being razed or demolished. Just the tired, old, leaking, twisted (from the tornado) building is being torn down. I wish that the friends of the restaurant and bookstore would offer their time and efforts to help the businesses relocate instead of just blowing their hot-air complaining comments.

The younger developers who purchased the properties are not some wealthy old-timers but are conscientious, hardworking, creative younger men willing to take the risk to create their own dream.

I have just recently seen their plans and believe they will immensely improve the ambiance of the neighborhood. Soon, hopefully, New Pioneer will move on with their plans and demolish their decrepit tiny store for their new one. That will help the neighborhood as well.

Nila Haug is the former owner of the buildings at 511, 517 and 520 Washington St.

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