Demolition of Cooper's Mill begins

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Demolition work on the once popular old Cooper’s Mill began on Friday.

An excavator began tearing down exterior features, including the carport awning where hotel guests parked for check in. The major demolition of the structure itself will begin next week, said Matt Yamilkoski, operations director for Active Thermal Concepts, the excavation contractor out of Hiawatha.  

“Work on the actual main block building is going to start on Tuesday,” he said. “That’s when it will make the big bangs and look cool.” 

The city of Cedar Rapids hired Active Thermal for $349,449 to demo the building and clear the site to make way for the eventual flood protection system.

The city acquired the flood-prone building and property for $5.23 million last fall after the September flooding, although the acquisition had been in the works prior to the second worst flood in the city’s recorded history.

A liquidation company sold off the contents of the building in February.

Active Thermal has been on site for several weeks doing prep work, but Friday marked the beginning for work noticeable from the outside. The demo work was expected to begin sooner, but an underground utility line was discovered and had to be removed, city officials said.

“Since it was approved by Council and the contractor has been in place, they’ve removed all the asbestos and all the waste out of the building, plumbing, drywall, carpet,” said John Riggs, the city’s building services manager. “Basically, all the interior has been demolished, and all that is left is a concrete shell.”

Riggs said Active Thermal will remove everything down to the parking lot and foundation, and then grade it back to a natural surface where grass will grow until flood system work begins.

The process will be a controlled demolition with an excavator as opposed to an implosion or wrecking ball, Riggs and Yamilkoski said. Riggs noted the concrete and steel will be recycled.

The work should take about a week to complete.

Flood system work has not yet been scheduled, but is tentatively in the five to ten year time frame, according to the city’s master plan. A levee is slated to go on the edge of the Cooper’s Mill property while the remaining grounds will be left vacant as space for the Cedar River to “breathe” during high waters, city officials have said. 

The 82-room hotel and restaurant built in 1972 at 90 F Ave. NW closed during the September 2016 flood and never reopened. The restaurant was a popular west-side staple particularly for the after church crowd on Sundays, while the hotel was most recently operated as a Best Western brand.

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