Emerson plans Dows building conversion to apartments, Kingston row house project

The proposed $4.2 million Kingston Quarters row house project would place 12 units at 353 Second Ave. SW in Cedar Rapids. (Illustration courtesy of Aspect Architecture)
The proposed $4.2 million Kingston Quarters row house project would place 12 units at 353 Second Ave. SW in Cedar Rapids. (Illustration courtesy of Aspect Architecture)

CEDAR RAPIDS — The 108-year-old Dows Building downtown would be remodeled with upper floors converted from vacant office space to housing, and a new row house development would provide more residential options on the west side of the river, plans presented Tuesday to the Cedar Rapids City Council show.

Local developer Steve Emerson is behind both.

Restoring the eight-story Dows Building, 200 Second St. SE, accomplishes two things, he said. First, it converts something that isn’t needed — vacant office space — into something that is: 24 downtown housing units. Second, it provides safety updates including sprinklers and a second stairwell.

“This takes probably one of the least safe buildings in downtown and makes it compliant and happy and wonderful again,” Emerson said.

The council supported tax break plans for both projects during its meeting Tuesday.

In the case of the $6 million Dows project, the city passed a resolution to support an application to the Iowa Economic Development Authority for workforce housing tax credits. The city would finance a local match through a 10 year, 100 percent property tax break valued at $498,200.

“Kudos to Steve for taking this building on,” council member Scott Overland said.

In the case of the $4.2 million Kingston Quarters row house project, 353 Second Ave. SW, city staffers have approval to negotiate a 100 percent, 10-year tax break worth $590,000. The deal would be finalized later.

In both cases, the tax reimbursement is based only on new value created from the development. Emerson still would pay taxes on the base value, which is estimated to be a combined $176,000 over 10 years for both.

The Dows project would include historic preservation and adaptive reuse of 35,000 square feet on the fourth through eighth floors for residential units. These would include one efficiency, 21 one-bedroom units and two two-bedroom units.


The project already has been awarded $400,000 in brownfield-grayfield redevelopment tax credits through the state economic office.

Kingston Quarters is a 12-unit development adjacent to the old education services center, which Emerson also is converting to housing. He has a few other projects nearby, too.

“I am trying to put a bunch of residences together in a two-, three- block radius to develop a neighborhood feel,” Emerson said.

Council member Ann Poe credited him for the design of the row houses, which each would have two bedrooms and two bathrooms and be available for lease or sale.

“That truly is a beautiful building,” she said. “Where it sits it will get lots of notice.”

In other council news:

l Cedar Rapids is considering self-insuring a $5 million deductible for flood damage — if flooding occurs in the 20- to 27-foot river elevation level — during construction of a flood wall at the Quaker Oats site, flood control program manager Rob Davis told the City Council.

Davis also reported bids for the project were coming in well below the $17 million internal estimate. WRH Inc. of Amana was the low bidder at $14.2 million out of seven bids. The council will vote to approve a bid at a later date.

WRH is the same contractor that built the existing flood wall around Quaker, Davis said.

l The City Council designated Grace Episcopal Church, 525 A Ave. NE, as a local historic landmark.

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



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