Duplexes to replace live-work project in NW Cedar Rapids

Cedar Rapids council had rejected plan under opposition

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CEDAR RAPIDS — The Cedar Rapids City Council praised a developer Tuesday for proposing to build three run-of-the-mill duplexes nearly a year after the panel rejected his novel complex where entrepreneurs would live and work.

“I was glad they supported it, but a little disappointed they didn’t acknowledge how different the two projects were,” developer Keith Billick said.

He had proposed the $7 to $8 million Lincoln Highway Lofts last winter in an oft-overlooked part of town along Johnson Avenue NW only to see the plan fall under the weight of neighborhood resistance over stormwater runoff, traffic and increased density.

Tuesday, the council approved a first vote to rezone .8 acres at 3010 Johnson Ave. NW to allow for duplexes. The matter needs two more votes of approval.

Another parcel at 2937 Johnson Ave. NW, which was part of the earlier project, is not included in this proposal. Billick said he does not have plans for it at this time.

Billick intends to build three duplexes at an estimated total cost of $150,000 to $200,000 at 3010 Johnson Ave. NW, and may renovate an existing building into a duplex depending on the success of the first three. The new zoning would allow 18 units on the site, but Billick is proposing only up to eight.

Some had lauded the Lincoln Lofts concept, which featured 20 live-work units and 23 condos, single-family homes and row houses in a series of two- and three-story buildings, for its uniqueness in Cedar Rapids, potential attractiveness to millennials and for giving a boost to this part of town.

He was caught surprised when it fell flat. The new proposal is less of an unknown.

“I kind of went back and listened to the neighborhood and City Council and came up with hopefully something that fit in the neighborhood,” he said. “It’s not something that is unique. It’s not outstanding. It will blend into the neighborhood and not stand out.”

Members Scott Olson and Susie Weinacht thanked him for sticking with the development and shifting to something more in context.

“We thank you for coming back, for accepting the input and not just walking away, and being able to submit a new proposal,” Weinacht said.

In other action, neighbors who united under a limited liability corporation called Monarch Ridge to buy 8 acres of vacant land to protect against unwanted development were approved to move forward with their own plan.

It calls for subdividing some property for three single-family homes and additional land for the 10 property owners who formed Monarch.

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