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Flood committee backs city's buyout of Cooper's Mill

Proposed sale date is Oct. 30

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CEDAR RAPIDS — A Cedar Rapids committee on Tuesday backed the $5.23 million buyout of Best Western Cooper’s Mill hotel with plans to demolish the structure this spring, so the land can be used for an eventual flood protection system.

Hotel ownership signed a purchase agreement on July 11, and given the flooding event of last week, which forced the hotel to close, they wanted to move quickly on the deal, said Rob Davis, the Cedar Rapids flood control program manager. The proposed sale closing date has been moved up to Oct. 30, he said.

“They’ve already moved everything out,” Davis said. “So the thought is now they won’t reopen because they’ve already closed, and they don’t want to reopen for a short period of time and close again.”

Davis briefed the City Council’s Flood Control Subcommittee on the negotiations, which have been in the works since hotel ownership contacted the city in the spring about a buyout. The acquisition hinges on approval from the Cedar Rapids City Council at its Oct. 11 meeting.

Doug DeLong, the hotel owner, has not returned phone and email messages seeking comment. The 82-room hotel also has a restaurant and bar.

The hotel, at 90 F Ave. NW on near the west bank of the Cedar River, is assessed at $2.29 million for the land, dwelling and improvement value, according to the Cedar Rapids Assessor’s Office. The sale price is based on an appraisal that includes the building, land, furniture, fixtures and equipment, Davis said. Assessed value is roughly half the cash value of a property.

For Justin Shields, who serves on the City Council, as well as the flood committee, the end of the 44-year-old Cooper’s Mill is bittersweet.

“I hate to see the Best Western and Cooper’s Mill restaurant, I hate to see that being taken up by flood protection, but I don’t see any way around it,” Shields said. “I think the owner was probably wise to negotiate an agreement now to get it done.”

The hotel was seriously damaged in the 2008 flood, and would have likely been ravaged by floodwater again last week had it not been for a temporary flood wall, Shields said.

The closing of Cooper’s Mill is a loss for the community, some said.

Francis King, 88, who lives in the northwest quadrant, contacted The Gazette to express his disappointment.

He’s been a regular at the restaurant for 20 years, often coming for “one of the better fish fries in town” on Friday nights and running into friends among the after-church crowd on Sundays. It’s a staple for older residents, such as those of the Meth-Wick Community, he said. Meanwhile, the hotel offers needed and affordable lodging close to downtown.

“If we lose Cooper’s Mill we are going to loose a big part of the places that people can go,” he said.

The Cedar Rapids flood protection system master plan calls for a levee on the Cooper’s Mill site in the five- to 10-year time frame.

For all of The Gazette's Flood 2016 coverage, please visit our flood coverage center.

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