Archive for the ‘Iowa City’ Tag

Breast Cancer – 3 Stories, 3 Reminders

Breast cancer is important, it is the second most common cancer in women, next to skin cancer (Web MD). Breast cancer isn’t something that women 40 and up have to worry about, it’s everyone. It is becoming more and more common in younger women.

In my first story, I discuss how women can become more aware of breast cancer, especially younger women. Read it here.

In the second story, I did a profile on Janice Freeman, a student who was diagnosed with breast cancer at 22. She does not go to University of Iowa but I feel many students can learn a lot from her story since we are so close in age. Read it here.

The final story is about some basic facts of breast cancer, and what resources Iowa has to offer for students here. Read it here.

For other related interesting stories read:

Comments are greatly appreciated! Let me know what you think, and what can I do better next time.

(Having some technical difficulties with video…hopefully those will be up later)


Breast Cancer here, in Iowa City

Breast Cancer – How you can become aware here at University of Iowa.

Chelsea Stanley creating awareness on campus

Your body is built to protect you and fix yourself. It’s your personal bouncer and it’s like your mother in the sense it takes care of you. But what happens when a foreign mutation comes in the body?

How cancer happens

Keri Mercer, a Cancer Information Specialist at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, explains that your body has a kill switch. When cells divide, sometimes the mutations divides and that shut off the kill switch.

“The cell has orders to die if it can’t fix itself,” Kerr Mercer explains, “With cancer, if the mutation happens and the kill switch is off, it will grow and divide. And that is how a tumor begins. [It is] more common when we are older because our cells have been dividing more often.”

This is why cancer is more rare in younger women, because younger women’s’ cells haven’t been dividing as long. When breast cancer does happen to women under 30 or so, it’s usually because of genetics.

“Genetic links are not as common as we think. The reality sees that only 5-10% of cancers are genetically linked,” Mercer said. “Usually where that comes from is often time we don’t understand that there are so many types of cancer.”

Testing and  awareness

Breast cancer as well has different types, even if you take two women who both have breast cancer and are in the same stage; they may have a different type of cancer than each other.

Here in Iowa City, the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics reaches out to the community to try to help them understand cancer and how to catch symptoms. Sometimes some organizations contact them and ask them to come and speak about a certain cancer.

Because there are so many different types of cancer, the UIHC tries to focus on the cancer involved in the cancer awareness month. For example, breast cancer is the main focus for the month of October, as it is everywhere else.

“There has been a lot of awareness done with primary care doctors,” Mercer said. “Most of the are educated to make sure their patients are getting screened.”

Recently, the protocol for women getting mammograms has changed. It used to be women were advised to get them once they turned 40 years old, now it is 50 years old.

“Some [doctors] saw some data that there are false positives. To reduce risk they changed the age range to 50 and up,” Mercer said. “There are still arguments against it. We typically tell patients to start talking to docs to see when to start mammograms.”

Mercer said they are waiting to do testing later because breast tissue is different. When younger the tissue is denser, which makes it harder to see cancer cells.

Genetic Testing

For younger women there is no screening. Mercer says that if you are in a high risk family and have women in the family who diagnosed younger than 40 – they look at your history and recommend the patient who had/has the cancer, get testing done to see if he/she has a mutation (because of insurance). Doctors tend to tell the patients to have the person with the cancer to be tested for the gene and if its positive then see if the person with the mutation has it and if has it there are some things to think about doing from there.

Chelsea Stanley, a junior here at UI, has a long history of breast cancer being common in her family.

“No, I’m not going to get tested for the gene because it’s expensive,” Stanley said. “And having the gene doesn’t mean you’re going to get breast cancer…and not having the gene doesn’t mean you’re not going to get it either. However, getting mammograms, yes, that I’ll do. And feel my boobies of course.”

Mercer says that the awareness not only comes from families, and family history or knowing someone with breast cancer, but it also comes from primary care doctors. Ask you primary care doctors about symptoms, have them check something if you think it is suspicious and they can also refer you to more information or a doctor who may be a specialist in cancer.

What you can do

Here at University of Iowa, student may make an appointment with Student Health Services to speak with a doctor or to get something checked out. They also may have some extra information. University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics also have a lot of resources available to students.

In Johnson County, there have been 342 cases of breast cancer from 2003-2007 according to the Iowa Cancer Registry, 42 of which have died from it.

Iowa City Drinking Culture

By Kristin Schiller

University of Iowa student walking downtown Photo by Kristin Schiller

Iowa City has a distinct drinking culture.  It is unique in that campus and downtown are essentially side-by-side.  While numerous articles have been written regarding alcohol consumption in Iowa City, I attempt to show new angles of University of Iowa students’ drinking behaviors through stories about fake ID use in Iowa City, local bar crawls, and an interview with a UI student about fake IDs.  To protect students from legal ramifications, many names have been left out.

Downtown living in Iowa City: from luxury highrise to student rental

The housing market in downtown Iowa City is characterized by disparity. Rental properties have long been dominated by University of Iowa students eager to abandon their dorm-dwelling days, but an influx in high-end condominium development over the past several years has added a new dynamic to downtown, luring homeowners who are looking for a slice of urban life in the middle of the Midwest.

This series examines both extremes of the downtown Iowa City housing market, including interviews with property developers and downtown residents — both students and non-students alike — along with photos, video and audio.

  • Begin reading here to learn about downtown’s flagship condo building, Plaza Towers, and to find out when (and if) to expect similar projects in the future. Be sure to watch the audio slide show tour of Plaza Towers for images from inside the complex and views from the top of Iowa City’s tallest high rise.
  • Continue reading here for an interview with the Loewenbergs, residents of Plaza Towers and two New York City natives who have returned to their urban roots without ever stepping foot outside of Iowa.
  • Round out your knowledge of downtown housing by reading this comprehensive overview of student rentals. Watch a video feature of two University of Iowa seniors who are tired of their neighbors’ partying tendencies, learn who owns what in downtown rental property and find out how some students are taking landlord disputes to the courtroom.

The cost of downtown living for Iowa City’s student renters

Houses and apartments for rent make up the vast majority of residential property near downtown Iowa City, and most of the tenants are university students, creating unique problems for property managers and renters alike.

By Lauren Sieben

Madison Sheets and Amanda Leppert moved into their downtown Iowa City apartment this year because it was, in a word, “easy.” The University of Iowa seniors were friends with a tenant who already lived in the building, and signing a lease with her eliminated the need for an arduous apartment search or long lines at leasing offices.

But the girls’ first few months living in Three Towers, near the intersection of Gilbert and Burlington streets, hasn’t been as easy as signing the lease.

“It’s okay, I live here”

The building — which is managed by Apartments Downtown — consists mostly of college-age tenants. Sheets and Leppert said they’ve lived in other student apartment buildings from the same property managers, but they’ve never lived in a building with as much partying or building damage as Three Towers.

Amanda Leppert and Madison Sheets pose in their downtown Iowa City apartment. The girls have had issues with loud neighbors since moving into the building this August. (Photo: Lauren Sieben)

Amanda Leppert and Madison Sheets pose in their downtown Iowa City apartment. The girls have had issues with loud neighbors since moving into the building this August. (Photo: Lauren Sieben)

“I called [Apartments Downtown] about stuff that was going on in the apartment and [an employee] told me that I should just call the police and not them, because they can’t really do anything if a kid’s like, throwing up in the hallway,” Sheets said.

Security cameras are hoisted to the tops of walls on each floor, protected by plastic casing. They’re a recent addition to the building after apartment parties this fall led to damages in the building ranging from inexplicable burn marks on the stairwell carpet to urine stains.

Leppert said she caught a man urinating in the front foyer of the building on the weekend of a football game. She threatened to call the police, but he was undeterred.

“I screamed at him, and then he said, ‘It’s okay, I live here,’ ” Leppert said.

Sheets and Leppert said that although their property managers have generally been helpful and responsive to other requests, they haven’t been successful in taming their rowdier tenants.

Since the bar age in Iowa City increased from 19 to 21, Leppert said she’s also noticed an increase of partying in the building. There used to be a “bar break,” she explained, but more underage students are hosting apartment parties because the 21-ordinance has left them with few other options.

“There’s people below us that party, there’s people next to us that party. It’s the whole building,” Sheets said.

Sheets, Leppert and their two roommates each pay $510 per month in rent plus the cost of utilities. The girls are graduating this spring, but even if they weren’t, both said they wouldn’t stay in the building, despite its proximity to downtown Iowa City.

The primary downtown players

Apartments Downtown did not respond to interview requests. The business is registered to James Clark, according to the Iowa Secretary of State website, and has been registered to Clark since September 1972.

The Iowa City Press-Citizen included Clark in its Iowa City’s Fabulous 150 list. In the article, Clark is described as owning and having developed “more Iowa City real estate than anyone else (301 parcels assessed at $93.6 million), providing housing to more than 1,000 university students, as well as businesses, mostly in the downtown area.”

One of Clark’s early developments was Pentacrest Apartments in 1978, near the intersection of Burlington and Capitol Streets.

Apartments Near Campus, another large property management company in Iowa City, is also registered under Clark’s name on the Secretary of State website. Apartments Downtown and Apartments Near Campus are both listed as “fictitious names,” which are also known as DBA names, short for “Doing Business As.”

The state of Iowa requires some businesses to register their DBA names. Using “fictitious” or DBA names is completely legal, according to the Iowa Secretary of State.

Among other business names that have been or are currently registered to Clark are Associated University Realty, AUR Downtown Apartments, DTA Iowa City Inc. and Iowa City Maintenance.

Apartments Near Campus declined requests for an interview.

Although Clark owns an enormous amount of student rental properties in downtown Iowa City, myriad other small and mid-size property management companies also rent to students.

Heritage Property Management, which owns a number of Iowa City-area rental properties, did not respond to requests for an interview. Prestige Properties, LLC was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.

Legal action

Occasionally, the issues between a student renter and his or her landlord extend beyond the usual noise and party complaints. Student Legal Services at the University of Iowa offers legal advice to students facing a range of issues from drinking tickets to divorces.

Landlord-tenant disputes make up the largest number of civil issues that students bring to Student Legal Services, Supervising Attorney Greg Bal said. The most common dispute is over the landlord’s failure to return the rental deposit.

“The larger [property managers], they’re probably corporations, and who knows where the owners are,” Bal said. “Their incentive, I think, is to maximize their profit and to return as little of the deposit as possible. That’s the impression i get.”

In the 3 1/2 years Bal has been at Student Legal Services, the organization has only lost one case against a landlord.

“We do see certain companies’ names come up more often than others, but I’m not sure if that’s because they’re not complying with the law … or if it’s just because they happen to have more apartments,” Bal said.

A “cheap, fun place”

Many students embrace the challenges of renting downtown in exchange for relatively low rent costs and close proximity to campus. Although the rental market is dominated by students, many students don’t think the market saturation is a deterrent to home buyers.

Lauren Connolly, a senior at the University of Iowa, lives in a 3-bedroom apartment in Van Buren Village on South Van Buren Street. The building is managed by Heritage, and although there are a few unappealing aspects of the area — namely,  its location next to the train tracks and some neighbors’ “pot-smoking habits” — Connolly said she’s happy in the building, and with her low $300 monthly rent payment.

Connolly doesn’t think the abundance of student housing near downtown should necessarily scare people out of looking to purchase a home.

“I’m sure it would affect older couples and people with young children more than it would affect first time home buyers looking for a cheap, fun place to lay down roots,” she said.

Interested in the other side of downtown housing? Click here to read the rest of the package, including photos and a tour of a high-rise condominium building in Iowa City.

Iowa City couple shifts from suburban to urban housing

The city-dwelling duo has always had an “affinity for urban living.”

By Lauren Sieben

Ina and Jerry Loewenberg

Ina and Jerry Loewenberg pose in their Plaza Towers condominium in downtown Iowa City. (Photo: Lauren Sieben)

Ina and Jerry Loewenberg moved straight to the suburbs when they first arrived to Iowa City in 1969. Two years ago, the New York natives decided to return to their urban roots without leaving the quaint Midwest.

The couple moved into Plaza Towers, a luxury condominium complex in the downtown Iowa City Pedestrian Mall. Ina said the attraction to Plaza Towers was instant: “When we walked in the door and saw the view.”

Looking for more information about downtown condominiums? Click here for the full article and an audio/visual tour of Plaza Towers.

Downtown convenience

The Loewenbergs first relocated to Iowa City for the university; Jerry came to the University of Iowa as a political science professor before serving as the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences from 1984 to 1992. Ina worked for the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in financial management.

Jerry and Ina lived in their River Heights home, a neighborhood located off North Dubuque Street, for 38 years before moving downtown.

“We loved our house. It was very beautiful and it suited us very well,” Ina said. But the move to Plaza Towers came at a natural turning point for the Loewenbergs. “We’re older people, so it was a good moment in our lives to think about downsizing to have less driving, no stairs — you know, a lot of conveniences for being older.”

And since moving from a house to a downtown apartment, the couple has been able to downsize considerably. Instead of two cars they now have one, and trips to the gas station have been reduced to a once-a-month affair.

“Your carbon footprint is much lower living in the city than it is living in the country,” Jerry said. “Suburban living, particularly for people our age, requires so much work that isn’t really very worthwhile.”

The Loewenbergs do almost all of their grocery shopping at the Bread Garden, a grocery store located on the first floor of Plaza Towers, and Ina walks to the nearby Senior Center “almost every day.”

“Everything is within walking distance. I still go to my office everyday in Shaeffer Hall, and that’s 10 minutes from here,” Jerry said.

Ped Mall noise: Not a nuisance

Plaza Towers

View of Plaza Towers from the top story, facing southwest (Photo: Lauren Sieben)

The Loewenbergs took advantage of the open layout in their one-bedroom, 1,650-square-foot condo to build two office studies and a bookcase. The unit also includes a patio overlooking the Ped Mall.

Their condo’s close proximity to the downtown bars doesn’t bother the Loewenbergs. “It sometimes gets a little noisy,” Ina said. “But growing up in New York was noisy.”

“People our age are not going to go cruising around at 10 o’clock at night anyway, so if it gets really noisy we can close the windows,” Jerry said.

Bobby Jett, the property manager at Moen Group, which developed of Plaza Towers, said in a recent interview that condo owners and renters in Plaza Towers range in age from mid 20s to late 80s.

“A lot of East coast people say they cannot believe how easy it is to get to stuff here, and how much is going on,” Jett said.

Jerry and Ina said they enjoy the wide age range of Plaza Towers residents.

“It’s a very mixed group of people in this building; there’s a few people our age but not many,” Jerry said. “And then every other age group, down to students. It’s wonderful.”

The couple says they don’t miss anything about suburban living, and they don’t foresee any future moves.

“We see it as all advantages, really. We’re very pleased with it,” Jerry said.

Click here for the main menu of the downtown housing story package, with links to more information about Iowa City condos and student apartments.

Iowa City 21 Ordinance: Check Yes or No

It is hard to go anywhere in downtown Iowa City, without seeing anti-21 ordinance signs. It is also just as hard to go anywhere in suburban Iowa City, without seeing pro-21 ordinance signs.

For those who have been living in a hole for the past months, here is the issue. The bars in Iowa City have been reverted to the standard 21 and over only rule, applied to most bars outside of college campuses.

Even though the bars have been 21+ for upwards of four months now, it is up for a re-vote, which will allow registered voters to choose what they want to see happen in the downtown scene.

The issue at hand: is it right for persons under 21 to be in a bar? Many feel that the law should stay at 21, but many (which mainly includes students and bar owners) feel that it should go back to the way things were, by allowing 19-year-olds into the bars.

In order to get a visual of the effect this Ordinance has had on the Downtown seen, take a look at this slideshow.


There are many people who are enjoying the new ‘atmosphere’ in downtown Iowa City. And these people are not just permanent residents. Students too are voting for the law to stay at 21, although there are not very many.

“The only reason for people to be in a bar is to drink,” stated Iowa City resident Dillon Weaver, who does not turn 21 until June. “So there’s no point for a 19-year-old to be in a bar when they’re underage.”

Even though it is hard to find students who are under the age of 21, who think the law should stay at 21, they are still out there, fighting for what they believe in. Along with these students, there are a number of groups standing alongside these young people.

21 Makes Sense is a broad-based community action organization revolved around supporting the 21-only law regulated by the city.  They argue that by having the bars remain at 19, it is not only designating downtown Iowa City as an area for binge drinking, but it is also a public health and safety issue.

21 Makes Sense Sign, courtesy of

According to their website, the “University of Iowa students binge drink at levels more than twice the national average. Blood alcohol concentration for students referred for services at Health Iowa range from .18 to .43 now compared to .12 to .23 just five years ago.”

This elevation in underage drinking, is one of the main reasons why 21 makes sense to people who support the 21 ordinance. With upwards of 600 registered supporters, it is hard to argue with their claims, as well as the facts.

Hawkeye Football coach, Kirk Ferentz, is among the hundreds of other supporters, sporting a co-chair title. As well as Ferentz, University of Iowa President, Sally Mason, also supports the ban on 19-year-olds in a bar after 10 PM.

In a letter to the Iowa City Council, Mason stated, “Our students’ safety and health are profoundly threatened by the relationship some have with alcohol. I am firmly convinced that a minimum bar entry age of 21 will reduce that threat.”

Here’s a look at a TV advertisement provided by the 21 Makes Sense campaign, which relies a lot on facts.


Even though it seems like a lot of people are for the law staying at 21, there are thousands of students who think otherwise. The University of Iowa is known for its downtown scene, and without it, some students argue that the city just is not as fun.

“The bars are fun, there’s no doubt about that,” stated University of Iowa Junior, Stepheny Norasingh, who turns 21 next week. “There’s more excitement when people are all downtown together.”

The group that seems to be in direct competition with the 21 Makes Sense group is the Iowa City Safety Committee. Their main goal is to ensure the safety of Iowa City neighborhoods and children by repealing the 21 ordinance.

Iowa City Safety Sign, courtesy of

The Iowa City Safety Committee finds it beneficial to have the law back at 19 to maintain a close eye on underage drinkers. They argue that by having all the drinkers, underage ones included, in one designated area, it will reduce the amount of sexual assaults, the police will be able to keep a closer eye on patrons disobeying the law and the surrounding neighborhoods will be kept safe.

“I would like the bars to go back to 19, because I really don’t like house parties,” commented Norasingh. “I’d rather go to a bar with a few of my friends, than roam around someone’s house I don’t know.”

The committee also takes notice on the dramatic economic downfall the downtown area has been experiencing since the law changed to 21 only. According to their website, 1,000’s of jobs are in jeopardy as well as revenue made my musicians, bar owners and other business owners in downtown Iowa City.

According to Sergeant Denise Brotherton of the Iowa City Police Department, she has also seen a drastic change in the atmosphere of the downtown culture.

“There’s no doubt that downtown Iowa City’s whole dynamic has changed,” she stated. “Since June, the number of PAULA citations has gone down, but that could also be due to the fact that most students go home for the summer.”

Although 21 Makes Sense is very fact based, and the facts tend to lean in their favor, they have failed to acknowledge when the statistics are generated. It is facts like Sergeant Brotherton’s that make many 19+ supporters argue with many of their opponents claims.

In an effort to convince the Iowa City public, the Iowa City Safety Committee has made a commercial, which they feel best articulates the reasons they want the vote to be overturned.


Although many students feel that the law should go back to 19+, voting for the law is another story. With most of the Universities students from out-of-state, 54% out-of-state, 43% in state, many of them may not be registered to vote in the state of Iowa.

This could have a dramatic affect on the outcome of the voting process, which aside from early-voting, takes place on November 2nd. The only way to know the true outcome of these two debates is to wait and see the final vote. To find your local polling place, visit the Johnson County Auditors website.

So what is your vote on the local issue? Cast it here, and be sure to vote on November 2nd!

Downtown living reels in residents from ages “18 to 80”

The Pedestrian Mall party scene in Iowa City hasn’t dissuaded buyers from paying top dollar for luxury housing.

By Lauren Sieben

The University of Iowa touts numerous academic accolades, along with one honor that university officials might prefer to disregard: the number nine spot in the Princeton Review’s annual list of top party schools.

But in spite of Iowa City’s nocturnal transition into a hub for alcohol-fueled shenanigans, the party scene hasn’t deterred buyers at residential buildings downtown, including Plaza Towers — a luxury condominium complex in the downtown Pedestrian Mall.

“I remember when I graduated law school in ’79, realtors were telling me there was a lot of demand for downtown housing,” said Marc Moen, the founder of Moen Group and the developer of Plaza Towers. “Thirty years later there still weren’t any properties.”

Before the completion of Plaza Towers in 2006, the area was used as a parking lot. It was the last developable space in the city.

Bobby Jett and Marc Moen

Bobby Jett (left) and Marc Moen pose in their Plaza Towers penthouse. (Photo: Lauren Sieben)

The first three floors of the building house commercial property, including the hotelVetro lobby, Formosa, the Bread Garden and Iowa City Fitness. Hotel rooms occupy floors four through six, and the rest of the building – floors seven through 14 – houses condos for sale and for rent.

Each ultra-modern unit includes high-end appliances and a bird’s-eye view of the city. The condos essentially sell themselves, explained Bobby Jett, Moen’s husband and the property manager at Moen Group.

“We spend zero on advertising,” Jett said.

Moen Group owns other rental properties in Iowa City, primarily drawing in students. But the steep cost of living at Plaza Towers has kept most students out, attracting tenants and buyers who range in age between 20 and over 80 years old.

Paying a premium

A 500 to 600 square-foot unit at Plaza Towers rents for $1,180 a month; an 1,100 square-foot unit rents for around $2,160. Rent doesn’t include utilities or the $85 monthly parking fee, and condos are priced roughly between $350 and $460 per square foot.

$650,000 can afford a 1,675-square-foot unit with three bedrooms and two bathrooms.

Critics initially doubted the viability of high-end housing in Iowa City, but the condos at Plaza Towers sold before the complex was completed.

“All the banks said, ‘No way, it’s not going happen … no one will pay that,’ ” Jett said. “It was a gamble, but that’s the only way you really get ahead.”

Buyers who aren’t determined to live downtown can spend a fraction of the cost for double the space by taking their search a few miles out. As of November 2010, the average home in Iowa City sells for $141 per square foot, according to real estate search engine

Party people

But many buyers are willing to spend double to live steps away from restaurants, shops, cultural events and even a few unruly undergraduates.

“Some point directly to the students and say ‘[They are why] I love being here,’ “ Moen said. “[But] if you ask people point blank if they live here because there’s a bunch of drunk people in town, they’d say no.”

Moen informally surveyed condo owners and tenants at Plaza Towers before the November city vote to either return to a 19 bar age in Iowa City or retain the 21 ordinance — the 21 ordinance ultimately won. But the results of his survey, Moen said, were “all over the board.”

“People that live and bought here wanted to do it because the students were here. They wanted to be around energy,” Jett said.

Click here to read a profile of the Loewenbergs and find out why the Iowa City couple moved from their longtime suburban home to a condo in Plaza Towers.

Linn St. Place

The success of Plaza Towers has inspired similar projects downtown, bringing in higher numbers of permanent residents to a traditionally student-dominated neighborhood.

Ryan O'Leary poses at Linn St. Place

Realtor Ryan O'Leary sells renovated condominiums at Linn St. Place, a building formerly occupied by student renters. (Photo: Lauren Sieben)

Two blocks away from Plaza Towers at the corner of Linn and Court streets, Ryan O’Leary, a realtor at Lepic-Kroeger in Iowa City, sells renovated condos at a price point close to that of Plaza Towers.

Linn Street Place, formerly a student apartment building, first began renovations in the past year and a half, O’Leary said. The three-floor building is home to commercial offices and 48 residential units; some renovated, some undergoing renovations and others still being leased to tenants.

The base price for one of O’Leary’s units starts between $175,000 and $225,000, averaging $250 to $275 per square foot.

“One of my colleagues had said that he thought we were crazy,” O’Leary Said. “He said what we should have done was just painted the walls and changed the fridges and then sold them to rich kids from Chicago. And I was really offended by that, because the infrastructure of the building is excellent.”

Costs by comparison: Downtown and eastside property for sale

  • A one-bedroom, one-bathroom unit at downtown Linn St. Place with 900 square feet is listed for $277,000.
  • Less than a mile away, a three-bedroom two-bathroom home on Governor Street with 1,786 square feet and a back yard is listed for $250,000.
  • Source: Lepic-Kroeger, Realtors Current Listings (Oct. 20, 2010)
An unrenovated kitchen

An un-renovated kitchen at Linn St. Place (Photo: Lauren Sieben)

Each unit has a patio – some as large as 15 by 30 feet – and each comes with two heated, underground parking spots and storage space.

O’Leary’s aims his marketing efforts at young professionals, retirees and empty nesters. The condos have attracted buyers from ages “18 to 80.” The trick, O’Leary said, is not to target only one demographic in marketing the renovated units.

“The fact that we are two blocks from downtown makes a huge difference,” O’Leary said, noting that the building’s proximity to restaurants and shops attracts buyers who are environmentally conscious and looking for “walkability.”

Although O’Leary’s marketing efforts haven’t focused on students, some parents of students have shown interest in purchasing units for their children.

“We figure our building will appeal to anybody … that values both a clean quiet and a professional atmosphere, but also the proximity to downtown,” he said.

Remodeled kitchen

A remodeled kitchen in one of O'Leary's fully-renovated condominiums (Photo: Lauren Sieben)

At the start of the building’s transition from rentals into condos, O’Leary struggled with a few rowdy student renters. But after the first year of new rules, O’Leary said partying isn’t a problem and hasn’t dampened the interest of buyers.

“The perception by many is that anything within a mile of downtown is going to be overrun with students having loud parties four nights a week. That’s just not the case,” O’Leary said. “There are lots of neighborhoods that are clean and quiet and don’t have problems with vandalism or noise pollution.”

Future projects?

Other developers have built similar high-end condos, but mostly outside of downtown and into nearby Coralville.

The University of Iowa plans to rebuild the Voxman School of Music and Clapp Recital Hall — a complex that was destroyed by the 2008 flood — at the southeast corner of Burlington and Clinton streets. The $125 million building includes plans of residential condominium space, according to a report from Facilities Management.

Talk has also circulated of condo development above the future University of Iowa Museum of Art, but university spokesperson Tom Moore said potential locations for the new museum have not yet been determined.

Money, Jett said, is the key factor for future projects downtown.

“Of [permanent residents], how many have the income to buy something here who don’t want a yard and a swing set?” he said. “It’s a very, very limited number of people who want to live like this and who can afford to live like this, so to build another [building] like this – could it even survive? Are there enough people that could fill it? That’s the unknown.”

Click here to return to the main menu of the downtown housing story package.

Bridging outer space and soil, an ISU professor finds his calling

Brian Hornbuckle holds a scale model of SMOS, the satellite launched by the European Space Agency. He's leading a team in Ames that is checking the satellite's work from the ground. - photo by Jim Malewitz

Brian Hornbuckle is trying to improve crop yields and predict flooding by measuring soil moisture – from space.


When Brian Hornbuckle cranes his neck to the nighttime sky, he’s probably not pondering the beauty of the constellations, but thinking about what’s in the Iowa soil right under his feet.  Yet he’s neither absent-minded, nor a contradiction. He’s just a man who has found his niche – where astronomy, physics and environmental science collide.

Hornbuckle, an associate professor at Iowa State University, has a unique way of understanding how the world works and how we might keep it working.

He is a physical agronomist– a term he coined. It means that he uses physics to study how plants and soil interact with climate. But throw in his expertise in satellite design and data collection, and the work gets even more interesting – interesting enough to land a role in a European Space Agency project he calls “groundbreaking” and “a perfect fit” for his hodge-podge of interests.

Continue reading

City of Writers

Iowa City is a place known for football, drinking and college students. However, underneath the standard college student activities, is a world of young writers, each developing their own voice.

It is no doubt that the University of Iowa is known for its writing programs, Undergraduate and Graduate. With so many strong voices in one town, you would think it would be intimidating; but not for Iowa Junior, Bryn Lovitt.

Bryn Lovitt

Since the age of seven, Lovitt has always had a fascination for writing. She even credits a computer game entitled, “The Secret Writers Society”, for kick starting her love and appeal for writing.

“It’s been my one consistent, creative outlet my entire life,” stated Lovitt. “It’s not so much that I want to do this for a career, more it’s just who I’ve become”.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, like many other aspiring writers, Lovitt found Iowa City and the University the perfect place to further her writing education.

“I wanted to go to a place where writing was appreciated. And I felt that where I was at for the first 18 years of my life, was the not the right place for me”.

In regards to her writing education and really understanding the craft, Lovitt stressed the importance of knowing everything there is to know about writing itself.

She commented that it would be virtually impossible to really be a good writer without reading about writing and writing every single day.

With such a strong devotion and love for writing, it is no wonder that Lovitt is the co-founder of the local group, “Iowa City Writers”.

“It started up just as an idea I had with a friend of mine freshman year, who was also into writing. Then more people got interested at it just became something bigger,” commented Lovitt.

Stemming from the English Department here at the University of Iowa, Iowa City Writers gives anyone the chance to submit a piece of writing and have it critiqued by students such as Lovitt.

“It’s really refreshing to find someone who loves writing as much as I do,” stated Cole Konopka, the other founder of Iowa City Writers. “That’s really hard to find in a city dominated by people who tend to be more concerned with drinking”.

Although the group had a big of a rocky start, the founders have begun to see a very positive reaction from the general public.

“Anyone that falls in love with their first draft is an idiot,” stated Lovitt. “Our goal is to help people with their writing while maintaining a positive and sincere critique”.

At each meeting, the group spends the first 20-30 minutes reading any writing they would feel open to sharing. This really allows each writer to show the others ‘what they’ve got’.

The last 30 minutes of the meeting are set aside for the formal workshop aspect of the group, where two pieces will be critiqued.

These workshops are also opened to any type of writing, long or short. Poems, fiction, non-fiction, anything and everything is welcome.

For Lovitt, reading the submissions and providing feedback are her favorite parts of the entire experience.

“I’m the main contact for people submitting writing to the workshop, so I do a lot of reading,” commented Bryn. “It’s fun and interesting to see what stories people come up with”.

“It’s been a really rewarding process so far. I feel so honored to have been elected such a high position in the group,” stated Lovitt.

Lovitt shared a few words of advice for perspective submitters. Here is a list of just a few,

  1. If you’re hesitant about submitting, always do. It’s hard to get improve if you don’t take criticism and learn from your mistakes.
  2. Don’t be afraid. We maintain a really positive environment that welcomes inexperienced and experienced writers. Everyone’s welcome.
  3. Have fun. It’s all about learning to love writing!

Lovitt plans on continuing on with the Iowa City Writers community until she graduates. After graduation, she foresees graduate school, like many others. The University of Texas at Austin, which was voted one of the best graduate programs for writing, is among the top of her list.

When I asked her if she ever considered the Writer’s Workshop here at Iowa, she noted that it was a really good program, but that she would like to branch out and find somewhere new to spread her craft.

It does not matter if you are 20 or 50, if you find something you are passionate about, grab a hold of it with everything you have, Bryn Lovitt surely has.

For anyone who is interested in submitting a piece for critique, visit the Iowa City Writers Facebook Page. Or visit their page through the English Society website at the University of Iowa.