Former Cedar Rapids school, rec center to hit the market

Proposals sought for redevelopment of Ambroz Building

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CEDAR RAPIDS — The old Ambroz Building in Cedar Rapids — once a school and more recently a recreation center for classes and programs — will soon hit the market.

City staff are hoping to entice private developers to propose a new vision for the 17,000-square-foot building and its 1.62 acres of land, including a large parking lot, at 2000 Mount Vernon Road SE.

“Buildings like that are built like a fortress; I think it has nice terrazzo floors,” said Pat Shey, a member of the City Council development committee, which reviewed the plans on Monday. But, he noted the building likely needs a fair amount of work, such as a new electric wiring and other systems.

How much work is needed could depend on the future use.

Ambroz was built in 1903 and once housed Buchanan Elementary. The city took over the building from the Cedar Rapids Community School District in 1975 and it served various functions over the years. When the new Northwest Recreation Center opened last year, staff and programming moved over and Ambroz was closed.

Now, the facility no longer is needed by the city.

Under an agreement between the city and school district, the building could have reverted to the school district once it no longer served “municipal, public purposes,” but school district officials waived the right.

A factor in getting rid of the building is all of its needs.

For one, it is riddled with Americans with Disabilities Act compliance issues, which would make repurposing a challenge.

“Significant changes and upgrades would need to take place within the building for ADA,” said Caleb Mason, a city economic development analyst. “The building no longer is needed for city purposes.”

The building is assumed to be historically significant given the detail, but has never been surveyed, he added.

Nonetheless, criteria to sell the building will prioritize preservation, but saving the building isn’t necessarily a requirement, Mason said.

Other priorities include meeting community benefits identified in the recently completed Mount Vernon Road Corridor Action Plan. Neighborhood services, commercial amenities, such as a coffee shop, and housing were all identified as preferred uses.

Also, points will be given for “green building” features, such as geothermal heating, stormwater improvements and aesthetic features. A panel is to review the proposals.

Mason said city officials received an assessment opinion on the building of $730,000, although the sale price is negotiable.

A tentative timeline for the request for proposals calls for a bidding window from April 25 to June 2, and for the City Council to select a favorite on June 27. Any development agreement, which could include tax breaks, would be considered thereafter.

l Comments: (319) 339-3177; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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