Emergency work on old Knutson Building to begin Friday

Cedar Rapids City Council approves site access agreement with Hobart Historic Restoration

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Emergency work to stabilize the old and severely dilapidated Knutson Building — once on the verge of a wrecking ball — begins Friday, developers said.

Cedar Rapids City Council held a special meeting Tuesday during which the board approved a site access agreement with Hobart Historic Restoration. The city selected Hobart to redevelop the Knutson Building but has yet to close the deal.

The access agreement allows Hobart to get in and work on the seeled-up building, which is owned by the city, while negotiations continue. Hobart plans to remodel the Knutson and construct a second building with a total of 36 to 52 apartments.

“We want to get into the building and secure it before winter so it will survive the winter,” said B.J. Hobart, owner of Hobart Restoration.

Built in 1887 as a condensed milk factory along the Cedar River, the Knutson is considered one of Cedar Rapids’ oldest commercial buildings on the west side of the river. It’s condition has deteriorated as it has sat vacant for several years.

Hobart said after a Thursday concert at the adjacent McGrath Amphitheatre crews are to begin Friday on a two- to three-week demo, which includes clearing the space of “muck” and “trash.” A 2015 city environmental study identified mold, asbestos and other toxins in the building.

After the demo, a four- to six-week stabilization endeavor is to begin, she said. This includes shoring up the walls and replacing the roof, which is caved in, she said.

As part of the agreement approved Tuesday, Hobart agrees to cover any repair costs, submit architect or engineer-certified plans for abatement and stabilization and provide an “umbrella coverage” insurance policy for injuries to people or property.

A final development agreement is expected to be proposed to the City Council on Sept. 13. Hobart had requested sale of Knutson for $1, a 10-year full tax break and $367,000 up front from the city for emergency stabilization and remediation costs.

As part of the deal, Hobart would get the property containing the Knutson and two adjacent parcels at 525, 529 and 533 Valor Way SW.

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