Underground parking is coming to two downtown Cedar Rapids buildings that formerly housed department stores.
Armstrong Development Co., owner of Armstrong Centre at 222 Third Ave. SE, is developing underground parking spaces for building tenants. The building, constructed in the late 1950s, housed Armstrong's department store until it closed in 1991 and was remodeled for office and retail tenants.
"We will have 55 parking spaces to offer our tenants," said Jon Dusek, president of Armstrong Development. "We will be widening the entrance off Third Street SE to about 18 feet 8 inches at its narrowest point, which will be the last 10 feet before you get to the street.
"We will be taking part of the space leased to the library up to the columns -- about two feet -- as well as recapturing some of the space leased by Hills Bank."
Dusek said an overhead exterior door will be installed to provide security. A rapidly-opening interior door will help prevent cold air from entering the parking area during the winter months.
Dusek said providing an amenity for tenants was the driving force behind the decision to install parking in an area that has housed offices before the June 2008 flood.
"I also wasn't too excited about putting people in office space in the basement again," Dusek said.
Underground parking is one of two major changes planned for Armstrong Centre. Dusek said the exterior canopy on the Third Street side of the building will be removed to provide a different look for the building.
"I will be working with my architect and structural engineer to finalize what I want to do," he said. "Eventually we will be removing the Third Avenue canopy to alter the appearance of the building."
At Town Centre, 201-221 Third Ave. SE, owner Steve Emerson has constructed a ramp off Fourth Avenue SE into the lower level of the building that housed Killian's department store until it closed in 1982.
"Initially we will have 40 spaces and ultimately 70 spots in there," Emerson said. "We've installed the ramp, the lighting and the mechanicals. We're waiting on the delivery and installation of some air-handling equipment.
"Once we get the air quality stuff done, we will be able to start parking down there."
Emerson said tenants of the building will have first choice of the spaces. He said the parking is expected to open in 30 to 60 days, depending on the installation of the air-handling equipment.
Emerson said he typically does not try to lease office space on the lower level of any building that he owns.
"I would rather that they leased space on the main floor of another building across the street than space in my basement," he said. "It just makes more sense and it's better for the downtown."Underground parking has been available on Mays Island for the Linn County Courthouse, connected by a tunnel since the 1970s. The June 2008 flood damaged the facility, which was closed for repairs until recent months.