CEDAR RAPIDS — When ground was broken Feb. 23 for two 30-unit apartment buildings in the 1400 block of Center Point Road NE, it marked the latest chapter in a gradual transition for the tree-lined corridor.
T.W. Sather Co. of Madison, Wis., is constructing Creekside Apartments and Center Point Apartments. Each building will include apartments with in-unit washers and dryers, elevators and heated underground parking.
For decades, single-family homes lined Center Point Road NE with the exception of the occasional corner grocery store or service station. Mark Stoffer Hunter, historian with the History Center of Cedar Rapids, said the first change was linked to Cedar Rapids public transportation history.
“The intersection of J Avenue and Center Point Road NE was developed commercially because it was at the end of the streetcar line until 1937,” Hunter said. “The streetcar would stop there, turn around and go back into town.
“Center Point Road was primarily single-family homes, with the exception of some apartment buildings that were built in the last 20, 30 or 40 years on what I believe were empty lots.”
Hunter said the difference with the new apartment buildings is the way the land became vacant and available for redevelopment.
“There were four or five single-family homes there at one time,” Hunter said. “The houses were torn down one at a time over a period of years and the land sat empty for a long time. The single-family zoning had been retained for each lot.”
The T.W. Sather projects are part of the city’s multifamily new construction program, Cedar Rapids Planning Director Jennifer Pratt said.
“Center Point Road is in Envision CR, the city’s comprehensive plan, under one of the corridors to look for opportunities to enhance the natural assets,” Pratt said. “They are focused pretty much on Center Point Road from 42nd Street down to the intersection with Coldstream Avenue.”
Pratt said the proximity of Interstate 380, a nearby trout stream and heavily traveled Center Point Road generated considerable discussion during the development of Envision CR, which the Cedar Rapids City Council approved in January 2015.
“We don’t really have any corridor plan or anything that’s calling out for this change,” Pratt said. “I think because Center Point Road is a fairly well-traveled road that it’s kind of a natural transition sometimes to get a little higher intensity use on a main corridor.”
Pratt said the city also is looking at how it incorporates higher intensity uses such as apartment buildings in terms of traffic and neighborhood impact.
“If it is done right, it can be very compatible with single-family housing,” she said.
While understanding the need for multifamily housing in the community, Hunter points to the apartment buildings along A Avenue NE as an example of what should be avoided when considering new projects.
“Those apartment buildings were crammed in there. They are sitting on what used to be the back lots of large homes along B Avenue NE,” Hunter said. “It did not improve the neighborhood to bring them in that way.”
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The Creekside Apartments and Center Point Apartments projects received federal Community Development Block Grant funding, workforce housing tax credits and tax rebate incentives from the city. Mortgage financing was provided by Bankers Trust.