Flood sites coming down

Buildings to be demolished on proposed casino site as part of C.R. flood-recovery efforts

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CEDAR RAPIDS — In the coming weeks, residents will get a clear picture of the empty space that a Cedar Rapids casino will fill should casino investors secure a state gaming license from the Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission.

On Tuesday, the City Council approved two new flood-recovery demolition contracts, which will take down an assortment of flood-damaged structures, including most of the remaining commercial buildings on both sides of First Avenue SW across the Cedar River from downtown.

This is the spot where the casino investor group, led by Cedar Rapids businessmen Steve Gray and Drew Skogman, has said it wants to build an $85 million casino.

Gray has said the entire area that the investor group wants to purchase for the casino is about 7 acres in size, with nearly 6 of the 7 acres now owned by the city through the city’s federally funded, flood-recovery buyout program. Some of the buildings on the city-owned portion of the 7 acres already have been demolished as part of earlier demolition contracts

The casino investors, Gray also has said, have signed contracts with two property owners to purchase most of the property in private hands on the proposed casino site.

Casino plans

In a sketch of the casino project, the casino is sitting between First and Second avenues SW and First and Third streets SW with a river view and a parking ramp behind it. The investors also want to buy the property across First Avenue East to use as green space and for possible future expansion and, perhaps, parking.

Last week, the casino project got a boost when Linn County voters, by a 61 percent to 39 percent margin, approved casino gaming in Linn County.

The investor group of 60-plus investors, which is doing business as Cedar Rapids Development Group LLC, now must convince the state commission that a Cedar Rapids casino will increase state gaming revenue while not significantly harming existing casinos.

Gray has said that the investors expect to present an application to the state commission between July and September, and he has said the commission could take six to 12 months to make its decision.

Demolition plans

In its action on Tuesday, the City Council awarded the latest demolition contracts to the lowest of three bidders, D.W. Zinser Co. of Walford.

John Riggs, the city’s flood-recovery project manager, on Tuesday said work on the demolition contracts related to the proposed casino property should begin in April, with the work completed by May 17. An environmental assessment on the properties is now under way, he said.

In the weeks ahead, the casino investor group will be asking city officials to seek competitive proposals from interested parties who want to purchase the city-owned property that the investor group wants to purchase. The city then will select the best proposal. All proposals will need to agree to pay the current market value for the property, which will be determined by a city assessment.

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