Cedar Rapids to seek proposals for historic properties

Buildings damaged in 2008 floods

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Preservationists look as if they are going to get a shot to propose how they might save and renovate 12 flood-damaged historic buildings or homes and also what they might do with the vacant lot on Third Street in New Bohemia that once was home to the Brosh funeral home.

The City Council’s Development Committee this week said it would recommend that the full council seek proposals on the 12 properties, which include ones in both New Bohemia and in the commercial district directly across the Cedar River from downtown.

The committee also supported a council action to seek proposals for the sale of the city’s district fire station near Coe College at 1424 B Ave. NE. The station won’t be needed when the new central fire station opens at 713 First Ave. SE next summer.

At this week’s committee meeting, council members Monica Vernon and Pat Shey spent considerable time discussing two historic commercial properties that sit in the area set aside as a construction area for a new flood protection system.

Those are the one-time Globe Grocery, 131 14th Ave. SE, and the former Cedar Rapids Tent & Awning Co. building, 1207 Second St. SE.

Preservationist group Save CR Heritage has expressed a strong interest in keeping the two commercial buildings in place, but Vernon and Shey concluded that the buildings likely need to be moved if they are to be renovated.

Shey said the council has been “consistent” in opposing redevelopment on property that the city now owns as a result of the city’s buyout program and that sits in the construction area for a flood-protection system.

In addition, Shey said he has spent time looking at the one-time grocery, which he described as a “mishmash” of a building “cobbled together” over the years. He suggested that it might make more sense to tear it down and build something new rather than trying to renovate it.

After the meeting, Vernon said she wasn’t sure either of the commercial buildings “can stand to be moved.”

At the same time, she said she and the other council members “are always open to proposals.”

Shey and Vernon also agreed that it would be better to move two houses on the list of 12 properties, those at 1301 Third St. SE, and 213 13th Ave. SE, to open up three-quarters of a block that is otherwise vacant for new development.

Four of the historic properties are in the commercial district across the Cedar River from downtown, on which members of the City Council have been trying out the names Kingston Village, Kingston District and West Village to see if one sticks.

The four properties, 102 Third Ave. SW, 120 Third Ave. SW, 207 Third Ave. SW and 222 Third Ave. SW, had been in the construction area for the flood protection system until this week. The four sit in the area near the city’s new riverfront amphitheater, which doubles as a flood-protection levee. The amphitheater has defined how additional flood protection will be built in that area, making it clear that the Third Avenue SW properties won’t be in the way, the City Council decided this week.

Beth DeBoom, president of Save CR Heritage, attended this week’s council committee meeting, and afterward she said: “I’m encouraged that these remaining historic buildings in New Bo and Kingston remain in play. I sensed that the city favors allowing them to move forward in the request-for-proposal phase, which is what we’d hoped would happen.”

DeBoom said her group has investors interested in all of the buildings.


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