Pagliai’s Pizza is shown in Iowa City, Iowa, in August 2023. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

IOWA CITY, Iowa — The Iowa City Council will consider a recommendation at its April 2, 2024, meeting to designate the building that houses Pagliai’s Pizza as a Local Historic Landmark.

Related: Iowa City takes first step to landmark Pagliai’s building

In February, the Iowa City Historic Preservation Commission voted unanimously to designate the property, known formally as the Slezak-Holub-Skarda Building, at 302-316 E. Bloomington St., as a local landmark. The commission identified the building as an anchor in the community with significant cultural and historic value, which highlights the perseverance of Bohemian immigrants in Iowa City.

The step was the first in a process that would protect the brick Italianate building and others in the complex — constructed between 1875 to 1880 — from future demolition. That designation also would make the building eligible for historic tax credits, the Iowa City Historic Preservation Fund and other financial incentives for its upkeep.

Later in February, the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval of rezoning the property to Central Business Service zone with a Historic District Overlay by a vote of 6-1, with Chad Wade opposed. Rezoning would recognize the property as an Iowa City Historic Landmark.

A public hearing is scheduled for the City Council meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. April 2 at Emma J. Harvat Hall, 410 E. Washington St.

The Slezak-Holub-Skarda Building is located in the Northside Marketplace area near downtown Iowa City and has been owned by the same family for five generations.

Ornate corbels are among the architectural features contributing to the historic character of the Slezak-Holub-Skarda Building. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

City staff received 43 letters in support of the proposed rezoning, including former and current Iowa City residents, and Cecilia Rokusek, president and CEO of the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids.

“We believe that history and culture should not be confined to museums, but should be a living and breathing part of our communities,” Rokusek wrote, noting that the building has statewide, if not national significance in the history of Czech-American culture. “Fewer and fewer of these landmarks remain to tell this important story and to inspire new generations of immigrants.”

Current owner Gary Skarda has been opposed to historic landmark designation.

Last year, Skarda listed the building for $5 million, including 16 apartments and neighboring laundromat.

Ginalie Swaim, of Friends of Historic Preservation, detailed some of the building’s history at the Historic Preservation Commission meeting, from the time it began as a Bohemian social hall in the upper level, known as Národní Síň, or National Hall, when one-fifth of Iowa City’s population was Bohemian, through its use as a hotel, eventually turned into apartments, a saloon and a grocery store, where changes were made in 1969 for Pagliai’s Pizza, then known as the Pizza Palace.

Czech cultural and fraternal organizations, such as ZCBJ, used the upper level for dances and other social gatherings after first owner Joseph Slezak constructed the building, which reflected his immigrant roots in Bohemia, later part of the Czech Republic. It was later owned by his son-in-law, Joseph Holub.

In 1936, I.C. Nichols opened the first self-service grocery store in the area, replacing Holub’s Grocery in the lower level. The business was later purchased by Ralph and Viola Westcott, and in 1953, by Raymond Tweedy, who renamed it Tweedy’s Self Serve Grocery Store.

A carriage house and a stable and feed barn were also part of the property, the latter of which became a garage and then in 1955, a coin-operated laundromat, which remains today.

Local landmarks are allowed in Iowa City without the owner’s consent, but the process requires a super-majority of the City Council for approval, or six of seven members.

Regardless of the outcome, Anthony Fontanini, who owns Pagliai’s Pizza, said the business has a lease through September 2030, and plans on staying open through that time, and hopefully longer.

MORE: 90-year-old Pagliai’s Pizza founder reminisces about restaurant

Anthony Fontanini, owner of Pagliai’s Pizza, waits on customer Tonja Robins of Iowa City, on Feb. 8, 2024. (photo/Cindy Hadish)