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IOWA CITY, Iowa – Within weeks of hiring a commercial lending officer in 2001, the University of Iowa Community CU stepped up to save an ambitious residential development in the college town, lending the developer $690,000 when no other lender in the area would step up. That gave UICCU’s infant commercial lending operation a big debut, and now it hopes to reap additional business as the developer begins selling homes and condominium units. “It ended up being a high-profile opportunity and it accomplished what we hoped to,” said Jeffrey A. Disterhoft, the credit union’s president. “It got (our) name out in the community.” The loan for what has become the Peninsula Neighborhood was eventually repaid, once permanent financing was in place. But it’s been replaced, Disterhoft said, by $20 million in commercial lending on the books. UICCU has $306.3 million in assets and 38,000 members in this growing college community of 132,000. The Peninsula Neighborhood had its grand opening in May and the first 20 homes in what will be a 410-unit neighborhood are under construction or final development. The project was teetering on the brink, however, in the spring of 2001. The city had spent $2 million to buy 190 acres of flood-prone land in the mid-1990s and hired a consultant to design a residential community on part of the land. By 2000, the city found a developer, Michigan-based T.L. Stamper Holdings and a year later city council voted to lend T. L. Stamper $700,000 for the infrastructure development after local lenders turned the project down as too risky. The project was considered risky because of its blend of price ranges and small lot sizes, all within walking distance of shopping. The Peninsula Neighborhood is a throwback, of sorts. It includes rental apartments, loft spaces, townhouses and single-family homes, with sale prices ranging from $120,000 for 800-square-foot units up towards $500,000 for 3,000-square-feet-plus estate homes. In design, the homes have a century-home feel reinforced by things like front porches and wood siding rather than vinyl. The city thought the risk was worth it, but city council backed away from the direct loan plan after residents complained about using public money for a private project. So the council started looking around for an alternative. That’s where UICCU came in. After the city council agreed to guarantee the loan, the credit union lent developer Terry Stamper $690,000 so he could begin the streets, sewers and other infrastructure investments for the 92 acres. Mayor Ernest Lehman was glad the credit union stepped in, though he was surprised that no other lender was willing to take on the nearly risk-free loan. Stamper, for his part, is still bitter about the way he was treated, pointing out that even with the city council guarantee he was so widely ignored. And he can’t help but note that the loan UICCU made carried little risk. Still, he did give the credit union a pat on the back. “They (UICCU) were the only one who would work with us,” he said, adding that, “It worked out for the credit union.” Indeed, Disterhoft said the credit union’s participation put it on the commercial lending map in the area. “We had just hired a commercial lender a few weeks before,” Stamper came looking for his loan, he said. Though his credit union was inexperienced at commercial lending, Disterhoft decided to take on the loan in part because of the guarantee, but also because it was a good project for the community. The loan was repaid in due course and now the credit union has a $20 million portfolio of commercial loans, largely in commercial real estate. “This is a university town and we have lots of apartments and condominiums, ” Disterhoft said. He conceded though that it would difficult for it to get involved with a project the size of the Peninsula Neighborhood loan that was conventionally financed. “ That’s not in our wheelhouse at the moment.” Though its loan has been repaid, UICCU still is keeping an eye on the Peninsula Neighborhood – as a market for home loans. -

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