Entertainment plaza 'Botown' planned for NewBo

Space to be used for live shows and other activities

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CEDAR RAPIDS — A new semi-permanent entertainment plaza is primed to open on the edge of the New Bohemia District in Cedar Rapids next month.

Brett McCormick, who owns several properties along mostly vacant Second and Third Streets SE, west of 16th Avenue SE, is working with city officials on a two-year lease of six adjacent city owned properties. Between McCormick’s properties and the city’s, there’s plenty of space for a variety of events, he said.

“The idea is every week we will have something going on,” McCormick said.

The venue is being called the Botown Entertainment Park, which is a play on Motown and NewBo, he said.

The city’s development committee backed the lease plan during a meeting on Wednesday. A projected schedule calls for the City Council to sign a resolution backing the lease at its meeting on Tuesday, followed by a lease signing on Sept. 12.

McCormick said he expects to have events lined up for September shortly after the lease is finalized.

“We want Cedar Rapids to be the music and arts capitol of the Midwest,” he said.

The area is a long grassy field where McCormick envisions people setting up on the grass to take in a live music show, or where lawn game events or weddings can be staged. He also plans to cater to nearby bike traffic.

Last September, McCormick got a temporary permit from the city to host an event called the Harvest Moon Fest with four local bands. Some 1,200 people came out with lawn chairs and picnic mats for what turned out to be a fun event, McCormick said.

It got him thinking about securing the space on a more permanent basis, but city officials say they won’t sell off the land until the completion of nearby flood protection work.

Jennifer Pratt, director of community development for the city, noted McCormick’s request has been a challenge because of the complex flood control project. She thanked McCormick for “sticking with us” as the city tried to accommodate the request.

“Staff feels a two-year lease is the best use in the interim,” she said.

After the two-year lease period expires and when the city is ready to sell the land, McCormick said he hopes to buy it. The city typically dispositions public land through a public bidding process.

He plans to put up a pavilion and other improvements. There is already an “L” shaped cement pad that serves as the stage, he said. Under terms of the lease, McCormick can’t build anything permanent on the city’s land.

Ann Poe, a member of the City Council and chairwoman of the development committee, said in backing the plan, “It’s not uncommon to use a short-term lease for some kind of recreational purpose.”

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

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