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Liberty’s Gate in NL to expand

More rental housing to be built on NL’s west side

NORTH LIBERTY– The North Liberty City Council has approved another group of rental housing and commercial buildings to be built on the city’s west side.
Liberty’s Gate development is near the intersection of Kansas Avenue and Madison Avenue, an area already peppered with commercial and residential development. The development group is preparing to add another commercial building and a single 28-plex residential building with two 8-stall garages in 3.26 acres on the southwest corner of the intersection.
According to North Liberty City Planner Dean Wheatley, there is high demand in North Liberty and throughout the greater metro area for rental housing like this, but the Planned Area Development (PAD) was approved because it was designated as mixed use– commercial combined with residential in close proximity.
“(Mixed use) is a good type of development for North Liberty because, not only does it give us greater variety, it allows for people to walk and get to where they need to go and not have to get in their cars for everything,” Wheatley said. For that reason, the PAD stipulates that the commercial building must be completed within two years.
The apartment building will contain 22 two-bedroom rental units and six one-bedroom units, according to developer Gary Watts of The Watts Group, with monthly rental fees between $1,000 and $1,300. The architecture and color scheme will be similar to 60 units just to the south.
“We are a strong residential presence in North Liberty, and we feel good about the rental market here,” said Watts. The rental units to the south are 100 percent occupied, he noted.
Council member Annie Pollock said as the west side of the city becomes more densely populated, she wants to ensure that residents there have access to recreation opportunities.
Wheatley noted that Liberty’s Gate has two open green spaces of substantial size, and that an extra-wide sidewalk runs down Kansas Avenue toward the West Lake area, where there is a pond with a trail. Marley Park was also recently added to the area, and Centennial Park is close by as well. North Liberty’s planning department and the parks department have been reviewing the city’s parks development plan, he added.
“This is not an area that is showing up as underserved. But it depends on each individual’s idea of what constitutes a park. Is it a swing set or is it a trail? Is it an open space? Before too long, that (plan) will be coming back to the council for you to look at,” Wheatley said.
The only other question came from councilor Coleen Chipman, who asked if the existing streets could handle additional traffic from the proposed commercial and residential units, since there are no turn lanes on Kansas Avenue.
“Is that something we want to consider? Because at the busy times, those areas get backed up really far, just trying to get out past Casey’s and onto Penn Street,” said Chipman.
Wheatley said the development would contain no driveways onto Kansas Street, and that the entire subdivision was designed to accommodate the traffic its total occupancy would generate.
“There will be a lot of vehicular traffic and probably a lot of pedestrian traffic, but in that respect we are is very well covered for our complete street requirements and sidewalk requirements, not only along the street but also up to the building so it will be easy for people to get around on foot and not have to drive everywhere,” Wheatley said.
Council member Terry Donahue gave his blessing, and ultimately, added his approval to the 5-0 vote in favor of the PAD.
“This will be a fine complement to what is already to the south of it,” said Donahue. “More power to you. I really like what I’m seeing.”