• warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.
  • warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.

Developers unveil plan for St. Mary auditorium

Commercial, residential mix planned for former church building

SOLON– There may be a new use on the horizon for an old Solon building.
The former St. Mary auditorium and an adjoining property were the subject of a mixed-use concept plan before the members of the Solon City Council Oct. 19.
Prairie Equity Group, LLC, of Iowa City, is proposing to renovate the 1915 building into commercial storefronts and 16 upper-level condominiums, with the conversion of a separate lot into a gated parking area.
The city was approached about the project about a month ago, City Administrator Cami Rasmussen reported, and representatives of the group met with two separate council committees to discuss it.
A site plan has been submitted and was scheduled to be considered by the Planning and Zoning Commission Oct. 25, she noted.
“I’ve asked the group here this evening because it’s a pretty big project,” Rasmussen said.
“We’re officially calling it Solon Lofts and Commons,” said Bill Wittig, representing Prairie Equity Group. Wittig walked council members through a slide show with architect’s renderings of exterior and interior improvements, and more details were included in packet material.
The existing building is 16,200 square feet, he said, but will be built out to 22,620 square feet when the auditorium area is closed in with new flooring.
Eight commercial units will be on the ground level, accessed through a new lobby area on the southeast corner which will feature an elevator and restrooms, Wittig said.
A number of different business types– coffee shop/bakery, salon, specialty retail and office suites– had made inquiry about the location, he said.
“We probably have over 50 percent of them that are people ready to write up letters of intent to lease,” he told council members.
The one- and two-bedroom condominiums on the second and third floors will range in size from 360 to 1,218 square feet, and will be for sale or lease, he said. The third story units will be lofts. All units will feature stacking washers and dryers in the bathrooms, he said.
“We have a variety of mix for the marketplace,” he said.
A rooftop terrace, accessible by stairs, will be added on the east end of the building.
Wittig fielded a number of questions from council members regarding the proposed parking area to the east and the expected price range for the units.
The lot to the east of the auditorium, currently a rental residence and a storage building, will become home to 24 private parking spots enclosed by a combination of vinyl privacy and brick and iron fence, he said. The storage building will be demolished but the rental property, located on the south edge of City Park, will be moved.
The 24 parking stalls will provide 1.5 spots per residential condo.
“We think there will actually be individuals that won’t even have a car,” Wittig said, “that will look at it as they can walk to what they need.”
Rent prices will range from a low of $800 and a high of $1,300, he said, with sale prices somewhere around $180 to $200 per square foot.
“The younger millennials that these really appeal to they want to be really mobile,” he said. “We had inquiries from people that work in Iowa City. They don’t want to live in the city. They want to come live in your community. They’ll drive 15 minutes. And they’re young, single professionals.”
Developers put the price tag at $2 million, but they also asked the city to do a lot of things it had never done for any other private project.
In addition to a 10-year Tax Increment Finance (TIF) rebate, Prairie Equity Group asked the council members to consider installing new water and sewer service, waiving building permit and inspection fees and reserving street parking around the building.
Assistance was also requested in the form of a five-year, zero-interest loan of $100,000, and an additional $100,000 grant for acquiring the properties.
“This is the list of things we want you to consider,” said Bill Wittig, representing Prairie Equity Group. Wittig said the developers were realists, but wanted the city to know what kind of assistance would be welcomed.
“These are items that would be helpful,” he said.
Council member Lynn Morris asked if it was common to see such requests.
“The only time we waived building fees was for the school,” noted Mayor Steve Stange. “And that was the permits, but not the inspection fees, because we have to pay for that.”
Stange said the city did not waive connection fees for the school or participate in the construction of water and sewer lines.
“So there’s no history like that?” Morris asked.
“No, we’ve never done anything like that,” Stange responded.