Since the University Club closed in December 2018, the lot next to Finkbine Golf Course on Melrose Avenue on the far west side of the University of Iowa campus has been vacant.
After years of planning, that could change with the addition of the James on Melrose active adult focused apartments.
“The university’s master plan does not specify a future university need for that land,” says Rod Lehnertz, senior vice president for finance and operations. “But it’s a perfect location for a private development adjacent to Finkbine Golf Course and a gateway to campus, including the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics and Kinnick Stadium.”
Pending Board of Regents, State of Iowa, approval, the university will enter a development agreement and long-term ground lease with Des Moines-based company Melrose Partners LP, along with Newbury Living and GRD Investors LLC, to develop residential, non-student apartments overlooking Finkbine Golf Course.
“The developer sees this project as an active adult, 55-plus community of upscale apartments,” says Lehnertz. “We see these individuals as people who are interested in having a living space right next to the golf course that just opened the new $11 million gifted Nagle Clubhouse, adjacent to campus, and within reach of some of the most exciting parts of Iowa City.”
The James on Melrose project is a result of several years of planning and was made possible when the university took ownership of the land 13 years ago.
The university bought the land in 2008 after major flooding destroyed much of the main campus; with the Iowa Memorial Union unusable, the University Club provided much-needed space and services to campus with catering and other amenities.
But as the university and Iowa City recovered, and with dwindling club memberships coupled with the significant upkeep the older building required, the university began to look for other options. \
“Several years ago, we issued a request for proposals to develop the land. Our only stipulations were that it fit in the neighborhood and it be residential, non-student housing. After that, a long process began with the developer the university chose,” says Lehnertz.
The university continues to remain involved with the design, architecture, and look of the building. If approved, the development team will build and own the facility; however, the university will maintain ownership of and lease the land for an amount that will be finalized in the Board of Regents approval.
The proposed development is currently within the jurisdictions of both Iowa City and University Heights. The cities came to an agreement whereby the municipal boundary lines were adjusted so the entire development sits within Iowa City, with both cities sharing property tax revenue generated by the development. The project also has been approved by the Iowa City Council.
The final agreement between the developers and the university will need to be approved by the Board of Regents. If approved, the development likely will break ground this fall or early next spring.