United Fire Group begins renovations at American Building in Cedar Rapids

Project will add office space for insurer

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Remodeling work has begun at the 102-year-old American Building at First Avenue and Second Street SE in downtown Cedar Rapids.

United Fire Group bought the 10-story building in January 2014 and announced plans in June 2015 to remodel the structure built in 1914 and construct a similar adjacent 50,000-square-foot building.

Asbestos abatement work began this week, according to Colleen Scholer, UFG corporate communications manager.

“We are going to begin interior demolition work next week,” Scholer said. “We’re also working with the city of permitting for the streetscaping and development agreement (for the new 10-story building).

“We also had to remove an iWireless antenna from the roof of the American Building. We will start demolition of the former convention and visitors bureau building between the middle of November and the beginning of December.”

Scholer said demolition of a building at 107 Second St. SE will begin after the former convention and visitors bureau building has been removed. The space will provide access from Second Street SE for underground parking that will be created in the basements of buildings owned by UFG.

The Iowa Economic Development Authority Board has approved the project for tax benefits through the state’s high quality jobs program. The renovation and new construction also qualifies for the city’s standard economic development property tax exemption or reimbursement programs.

UFG’s board of directors approved the remodeling and new construction plans in May.

In an interview after the Cedar Rapids-based insurer’s annual meeting, Randy Ramlo, UFG president and CEO, said the new 10-story building was easily designed for “cubicle life.” He said the older American Building, with its interior pillars, presented some challenges.

“We kind of designed it how we wanted it, but the cost didn’t make sense,” Ramlo said. “The two buildings will provide us with another 110,000 square feet of additional office space.”

Scholer said McComas-Lacina Construction of Iowa City is the general contractor for the overall project.

UFG employs 625 in downtown Cedar Rapids and 1,025 full and part-time nationwide.

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