Top of the World

For years, the city of Cedar Rapids turned its back on the Cedar River. No building near the riverfront. No taking in the view. Things have most definitely changed.

The Metropolitan, a new residential building on First Street SW directly across from the McGrath Amphitheatre, now offers a variety of condos and rental apartments.

Jim and B.J. Hobart developed The Metropolitan and, in February, moved into one of its three penthouse. The Hobarts now share the 2,600-square-foot condo with 18-year-old daughter Shelby and two dogs, Lily and Maggie.

It’s been an interesting move for the Hobarts because it was their first foray into newly built housing.

Their business, Hobart Historic Renovation, focuses on bringing new life to older buildings. In fact, the couple has a bird’s-eye view from their condo of two of their nearby restorations – the Mott Building and the Knutson Building which is being renamed The Chelsea.

The Metropolitan has commercial space on the first floor, apartments on the second and third floor and condos on the fourth, fifth and sixth floors. The Hobarts moved their business office from 33rd Avenue SW to the first floor, so they now live and work in the same building.

Their condo makes the most of its riverfront view. Large windows in very room and two large skylights bring in abundant natural light.

The entry is a large, welcoming space, with a skylight, that opens to the kitchen and living room. The kitchen features an oversized island, granite countertops and backsplash and a large walk-in, hidden pantry.

It was important to B.J. to design the condo to fit her and her husband’s every day lives.

The kitchen sink, for example, is located on the island, looking out toward the river view. “I didn’t want to face the wall,” B.J. said. “I didn’t want to feel like Cinderella.”

In addition to the stylish barstools at the island, an innovative lower cabinets in the island hides an extra barstool that can be pulled out when company comes. It’s also a place to quickly stash paperwork or homework.

“I love the column fridge and freezer,” B.J. said, which are located on opposite sides of the kitchen, one being a full-height refrigerator, one being a full freezer. “I like the way they look integrated with the cabinetry.”

The living room leads to a rooftop patio with a gas fire pit and two seating areas. A two-sided fireplace faces the patio and a cozy reading nook just off the kitchen.

The family enjoys the patio and being able to take in outdoor concerts at the McGrath Amphitheatre. But the building also has extra insulation and sound proofing that keeps city sounds out of the condo itself.

Jim’s office is just off the living room, full of sports memorabilia and collectibles.

An interior hallway leads to the other side of the condo for the guest bedroom and master bedroom.

The master bedroom features an oversized, walk-in closet with a skylight overhead. It also has a sizable island, with a coffee machine and a mini-fridge.

“I love coming in here in the morning and getting a cup of coffee as I start to get ready,” B.J. said. “I wanted it to be spacious. I wanted it to be bright. I’m very, very happy with it. I feel like I’m on vacation when I come in here.”

The master bath is breathtaking, with expansive views of the Cedar River, a two-sided as fireplace between the bedroom and bathroom, a large freestanding tub, a sizeable shower and even a mirror TV.

“My favorite view is from the master bedroom and bathroom,” B.J. said.

She selected the home’s furnishings and fixtures with an eye towards clean lines and a comfortable aesthetic.

“I started with the floors,” she said. “We had wood at our old house, and I knew the challenges of wood. Knowing it was going to be light ‘overload’ in here, I didn’t want anything that was going to be too reflective or overly light,” she said.

So the floors are primarily darker in tone, a dark gray ceramic tile in the living room and kitchen and a luxurious dark gray, wool-sculpted carpet in the master bedroom. “The dark floors anchor the rooms,” B.J. said.

“We spent a lot of time selecting the light fixtures,” she added. “Lighting, to me, is really important. I don’t like a really bright direct light.”

For paint, “I went with a warmer gray in the living room and a little cooler color in the master suite.”

The home definitely has a personal stamp. The kitchen features a built-in china cabinet of sorts, full of family treasures. Family photos line the walls. The matchbook collection that belonged to B.J.’s grandmother graces the living room’s coffee table.

B.J. said she and her husband didn’t think they would live in The Metropolitan when they started building it, noting they had a “quiet, peaceful” acreage off Highway 30 in Ely.

But over the course of construction, they slowly concluded the development would provide a perfect home for their familu.

They love living downtown, while still having a quiet, peaceful retreat on their patio.

“It’s been great,” B.J. said, “to learn how enjoyable it is to live down here.”

Klinkefus, Karen. “Top of the World”. At Home in Eastern Iowa, edited by Karen Klinkefus, Fall/Winter 2017. pp 16-23

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