Changes in store for Czech Village properties

One iconic building being restored, another demolished

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The look of some of the oldest commercial real estate in Czech Village is returning to its roots, while another iconic building will disappear from the landscape.

Workers are restoring the facade of the former Salvation Army Store to its era as an auto dealership, but just across the street, the Saddle & Leather Shop is scheduled to be demolished beginning today.

“We decided it was in the building’s best interest to restore it,” Bridget Casey said of the Salvation Army building, 45 16th Ave. SW. She has done some of the work herself, removing layers of white paint from the original brick and buying old brick to fill in missing sections.

Casey and building owner John Carl Berge — son of former Czech Village Association president John Berge — had hoped an arts studio would go into the 6,000-square-foot space.

When those plans didn’t materialize, they decided to forge ahead with renovations, with the goal of leasing the building. New windows should be installed before the July 14 grand opening of the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, which sits within view.

Cedar Rapids historian Mark Stoffer Hunter said the building housed the former Kadlec Bros. dealership, specializing in Studebakers and, later, Toyotas. The business opened around 1925; early photos showed two gasoline pumps in front of the store.

Stoffer Hunter said the dealership itself wasn’t among the first shops in Czech Village, but it used four spaces that would have housed early grocery and hardware stores.

“It’s built on some of the oldest commercial real estate on the avenue,” he said.

The Saddle & Leather Shop, 48 16th Ave. SW, was among the buildings hit hardest by the Floods of 2008.

Twelve feet of water deluged the sales floor, turning heavy glass showcases upside down and carrying some merchandise into the depths of the basement.

Stoffer Hunter said the building — actually two storefronts — had always housed a similar business. George Barta bought the shop in 1946, and his family had been planning a 100th anniversary celebration for the 1908 building before the flood hit.

Joe O’Hern, the city’s flood recovery and reinvestment director, said it is possible for the land to be redeveloped because it sits in a historic district.

“There are restrictions when we use federal funds (for demolition,)” he said. “Those are some of the discussions we’re having with the state right now.”

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