'Room with a Brew' shows off new housing and restaurants in downtown Cedar Rapids

Event is from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday in Czech Village and NewBo

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Craft beer, hip real estate and an evening stroll is the trifecta to entice millennials and others downtown Friday evening for a glimpse of urban living in the City of Five Seasons. Called “Room with a Brew,” the Parade of Homes-style event is a creative approach by neighborhood organizers to showcase how downtown living in Cedar Rapids looks and feels.

“We know people like beer and also are a little voyeuristic; they like to see how other people live,” said Jennifer Pruden, executive director of Czech Village/New Bohemia Main Street District.

Pruden worked with a planning committee to plot out Room with a Brew on from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday. Tickets are $15 each or two for $25.

The impetus is a renewed interest in urban living and the influx of downtown living opportunities. In the past year, the New Bohemia District and Czech Village alone have seen 50 new units with another 100 under construction or in planning, Pruden said. Virtually all get snatched up before completion, she said.

A previous review by The Gazette found since 2010 the greater downtown area has seen 452 new housing units with another 174 planned by the end of 2019.

Room with a Brew is centered on four living spaces, four restaurants and the space in between in Czech Village and New Bohemia. Participants, at their own pace, take a self-guided walking tour of the stops in an order they choose. While the hope is to make this an annual event, the locations would change each year.

Check in is at The Artisan’s Sanctuary, 45 16th Ave. SW, where Layton White performs live music and prize drawings take place. A retail showcase and tour map are to be available.

From there, participants can check out rooms in Water Tower Place on Third Street SE; The Row Houses on Second, on Second Street SE; NewBo West in Czech Village; and Heart House Airbnb on Third Street SE. A special souvenir shot glass is to be used at beer stops at Sauce on C Street SW, Little Bohemia on Third Street SE, Lion Bridge Brewing Co. on 16th Avenue SW, and Bata’s Restaurant on Third Street SE.

“We worked hard to spread this throughout the district to get people into the different nodes,” Pruden said during a condensed version of the tour for The Gazette last week.

The first stop on that tour was the new NewBo West complex featuring two-story apartments with balconies overlooking the neighborhood, above ground floor commercial. Ground work has begun on a similar complex across the street called Village West by the same developer, Bob Schaffer.

Next up was local food and beer bistro “Sauce,” which opened in July 2015. During Friday’s event, the eatery is offering Iowa beers on tap to sample and some discounted appetizers. Joshua Tibbetts, a chef at Sauce who goes by “Tibbs,” said events like these highlight some of the differences between the NewBo side and the Czech Village side of the river.

“Usually, there’s a lot more foot traffic on the east side of the river from people who come in for an event,” Tibbetts said. “On this side, it’s much more neighborhoody and quaint.”

Participants can walk across the 16th Avenue Bridge to find the Heart House, which has an Airbnb rental on the second floor and the salvage business, Little House Artifacts, on the main floor. Pruden included the short term rental to add variety, as an idea where visiting friends and family might stay.

The living space puts salvage material found on the first floor to use, such as coffee tables made of found objects, said Beth DeBoom, Heart House owner and president of Save CR Heritage, a not-for-profit group that works to preserve historic buildings. “We show what’s downstairs and then show what you can do with it,” she said.

DeBoom said the event should help answer questions people often have about the area.

“This sounds like a cool opportunity to show off not just my space, but all the different spaces down here,” DeBoom said. “Everyone is curious about what it is like to live here.”

The Gazette tour continued a few blocks down Third Street SE past the NewBo City Market to Bata’s, where owner Joel Kane — who lives above his restaurant — said cost expectation is the top misperception he hears about living downtown. People think it is expensive, but with several different price points, he’s found it to be affordable and an area he enjoys, he said.

“It’s a really communal area,” he said. “People give up their homes to live here in condos to be part of it.”

The final stop on The Gazette tour was a condo for sale across the street in the historic remodel of a 1925-built warehouse now called the Water Tower. Hallways almost as wide as a city street serve as walkways to the 47 units in the building, and neighbors and dogs connect on elevator rides between floors.

Candy Wong, a real estate agent, plans to host visitors in the condo she’s listing. Sloped walls pass a modern-looking kitchen into a living area with a partitioned bedroom and tall ceilings. She hopes people make it upstairs to the “green roof” with a patio and 360-degree views of the city.

“People come up here after work for a glass of wine,” she said.

Nate Holler, of Intrepid Real Estate and part of the planning group, said he hopes the event is a fun way for people to get a better understanding about how the area has changed and why it’s in demand.

“We have new restaurants and houses,” Holler said. “This is a way to get people to see the changes that have happened in the neighborhood.

“It’s a vibrant life down here that people might not know about.”


If You Go

Find this event and more like it on the newly-redesigned hooplanow.com 

What: Room with a Brew

When: 5-8 p.m. Friday

Where: Check in at The Artisan’s Sanctuary, 45 16th Ave. SW

Tickets: $15 each or two for $25. Tickets available at check-in or in advance at www.eventbrite.com, search “Room with a Brew.”

Details: Take a self-guided tour of four living spaces and four bars/restaurant in downtown Cedar Rapids.

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