Debris is cleared Oct. 19 from the former Transamerica location at Edgewood Road NE and 42nd Sttreet NE in Cedar Rapids. Hunter Companies was looking to develop the 51-acre site, but has withdrawn its plans to do so (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Dave Watson of Cedar Rapids speaks to people who showed up at an Oct. 28 Cedar Rapids City Planning Commission meeting to express concerns about a planned development on the former Transamerica site in northeast Cedar Rapids. (Geoff Stellfox/The Gazette)
CEDAR RAPIDS — An attorney with Hunter Companies confirmed Thursday the local firm is no longer proceeding with plans to buy the former Transamerica site and develop a mixed-use facility there, casting uncertainty on the future of the 51-acre property at Edgewood Road and 42nd Street NE.
A preliminary subdivision plat was slated to come before the Cedar Rapids City Planning Commission on Thursday after its initial consideration was tabled in October so Hunter Companies could work with residents to address concerns about the development.
The planned mixed-use facility had riled up hundreds of residents who mobilized against the proposal over concerns with traffic, stormwater management and tree removal.
But Shannon Thompson, general counsel for Hunter Companies, said in an email Thursday that “Hunter Companies is not moving forward with the purchase of the site.” The preliminary plat was removed from Thursday’s planning commission agenda.
Thompson did not respond to questions regarding why the company is pulling its plans or what allowed Hunter Companies to opt out of the purchase. She’d earlier said the company had been under contract with Transamerica to buy the site.
Thompson also said no tenants had been lined up yet for the rapidly developing area around the intersection with Highway 100.
Thompson had pointed to Hunter Companies’ experience with similar developments, such as the Northtowne Market site across the street from Target on Blairs Ferry Road NE, which includes restaurants such as Moe’s Southwest Grill and Jimmy John’s as well as elevate salon and spa.
Other Hunter Companies developments in the area include the Berthel Fisher Financial Center at a suite within 4201 42nd St. NE — near the Transamerica site with WineStyles, Parks & Schmit, Berthel Fisher and other users, plus Edgewood Station and Edgewood Market on Edgewood Road SW near Westdale.
Coldwell Banker Hedges Realty was brokering the sale of this property. The real estate company has not responded to a request for comment.
Resident Dave Watson, who organized a Facebook group in opposition to the proposal and shared hundreds of flyers informing people of the site plans, said residents hope somebody will step forward to develop that property, hopefully a local developer.
Watson said he and other residents hope to see a residential property at the site to mix well with the existing neighborhood without disrupting traffic flow at the busy intersection.
The site is now zoned Suburban Mixed Use Regional Center, which allows for a variety of uses, including multifamily, retail and office uses.
“We’re hoping that the next developer would want to work with residents and the community and blend the project with the remaining neighborhoods,” Watson said. “ … It’s unfortunate that it couldn’t be Hunter.”
‘World is different’
Council member Scott Olson, a real estate broker with Skogman Realty, said the proposal was derailed in part because of neighborhood opposition stemming from the first contentious meeting in October, which drew around 100 residents.
Plus, Olson said, some users backed out, and the combination of events led to a “Catch-22” situation that shifted the tide against pursuing the site development. (Olson was not the listing or selling agent for the site.)
Scott Olson, Cedar Rapids City Council (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
The proposed development plan showed only plat lines without any renderings.
Olson said residents could not clearly tell from that drawing what the developer’s plan was for the site, leading to the organized opposition.
For instance, he said, it was unlikely a mixed-use facility would have resulted in more traffic than there was when all of Transamerica’s workers filled the office building before the pandemic, yet residents never had an opportunity to see the potential traffic impacts.
“The world is different today than it has been then,” Olson said, and developers have to build what people will pay for, and nowadays there is a demand for housing and some commercial projects, and less for office space.
Any developer asking for city incentives will have rules to follow regarding things such as planting trees to replace ones that may be removed in development, Olson said.
“The issue is, this site will be developed,” Olson said. “Who it may be, who knows? It could be somebody better, somebody worse. Whoever buys this site has just got to come at it with a different direction. Something’s going to happen there.”
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