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CRST marks opening of 11-story tower

$37 million building more than 95 percent complete

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CEDAR RAPIDS — The wraps came off CRST Center, CRST International’s namesake 11-story, $37 million office tower along the Cedar River in downtown Cedar Rapids on Thursday.

And those who took the VIP tours were impressed.

“It’s absolutely gorgeous,” said Chris Wheeler, president of Point Builders, after he toured the fourth floor of the building. “The finishes of the building are spectacular and the views are indescribable.

“I think it adds just another valuable piece to the fabric of downtown Cedar Rapids that can help strengthen and better our community.”

C.J. Grayson, who recently moved to Cedar Rapids from Portland, Ore., praised the minimalist architecture of the building.

“I love the view of the water,” Grayson said. “I think it will bring a lot of new employees to the local retail spaces. There’s a lot of room for growth.”

Nancy Lowenberg, vice president of commercial banking at U.S. Bank, called the design of the building “well-thought-out.”

“It looks like it will be a great place to work and support the work of CRST and the other companies that will be here,” Lowenberg said. “It’s reforming who we are — honoring what has existed and becoming more.”

The grand opening of the 113,000-square-foot building at 201 First St. SE was attended by more than 100 employees, tenants and area business leaders.

CRST Chairman John Smith and his wife, Dyan, and their family developed the CRST Center.

“We wanted to build something contemporary and striking — a statement building symbolic of CRST’s and downtown Cedar Rapids’ evolution, growth, prosperity and forward-thinking outlook,” said Dyan Smith, also a CRST board member and who worked with OPN Architects of Cedar Rapids to design the building. “We have modern glass facing the river view, but brick facing downtown — as a nod to the history and tradition of CRST and Cedar Rapids.”

Ryan Companies served as the project’s general contractor.

John Smith on Thursday said the building is dedicated to CRST’s founders and his parents, Herald and Miriam Smith, who started the company 61 years ago in a converted chicken coop.

He said Herald Smith, who died July 27, 2015, expressed the desire at one point to have the chicken coop included in the building as a symbol of how far the company has come.

“Their vision and can-do attitude has grown CRST into one of the nation’s largest transportation companies,” Smith said.

The CRST Center, with floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the Cedar River, was built on the former site of the First Street Parkade, which was flood damaged in 2008 and demolished in 2011.

The city spent $368,778 to remove additional foundations before construction began in 2014. CRST bought the land from the city for $498,817.

The city also granted $8.35 million in tax breaks and the project received $1.75 million in tax credits through the Iowa Economic Development Authority’s former Enterprise Zone Program.

Earlier this month, CRST moved 60 administrative employees in finance, accounting and human resources and executive offices from the company’s campus on 16th Avenue SW to the CRST Center.

The company, which will occupy the fourth and fifth floors, will continue to have operations in southwest Cedar Rapids, including its maintenance facility and driver-training operation.

Bankers Trust, which will lease space on the 10th and 11th floors for 36 employees, and RSM International, which will occupy the eighth and ninth floors for 145 employees, will move into CRST Center on Oct. 21.

Both companies expect to be open for business in their new offices on Oct. 24. Bankers Trust also will have a full-service, street-level branch.

Holmes Murphy, which is leasing space on the seventh floor, plans to move 30 employees into the CRST Center from Town Center, 221 Third Ave. SE, on Oct. 3. Alliant Energy, which occupies the neighboring Alliant Tower, has rights to the seventh floor of CRST Center, but does not plan to move in immediately.

CRST has reserved the sixth floor for future growth. Partial space on the first and seventh floors are still available for lease.

David Hayek, project manager for Ryan Companies, the general contractor for the project, said CRST Center is more than 95 percent complete. Some exterior work continues on the building as well as the build out of offices for tenants, he added.

Floors one, two and three have a 228-stall parking ramp.

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