Greenway flood control plans catch some eyes

Open house updates Cedar Rapids flood control measures

Greenway plans, which would include parks in Time Check, Czech Village and along the Cedar River, on display at an open house at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library. (B.A. Morelli, The Gazette)
Greenway plans, which would include parks in Time Check, Czech Village and along the Cedar River, on display at an open house at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library. (B.A. Morelli, The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Residents on Thursday evening got their first comprehensive look in a couple of years at flood control measures planned for Cedar Rapids.

They were able to see the latest alignment that would protect the east and west banks of the Cedar River through downtown and also were able to weigh aspects still up the air, such as sprawling green space and a flood wall that could encompass Cedar Lake.

“People get anxious, but I applaud the city. I think they are doing it right,” said Gail Naughton, chief executive and president of the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, which hosted the open house and which would be directly impacted by the flood system. “They are building something that will last, and they are building amenities, not just barriers.”

More than 100 people attended the open house, with many saying they are excited about greenway plans, which would include parks in Time Check, Czech Village and along the river.

City staff members and members of consulting teams supporting different pieces of the system were on hand to answer questions. Rob Davis, the flood control manager for Cedar Rapids, said the feedback would be incorporated as planning continues.

The greenway designs have been in a holding pattern since 2014, but city staff plan to update them in the next year. Implementation would occur as the adjacent piece of the flood system is complete and as funds are available, staff said.

The greenways are destined to be parklike areas used for recreation and leisure.

A few ideas on the table are a kayak and canoe beach and an ice path near Czech Village where dozens of homes once stood.

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The Riverside Roundhouse is proposed to be the focal point of the 39.7-acre Czech Village Park near 17th Avenue SW and the former B Street SW.

“I just think that is great,” said Martha Wilding, of Cedar Rapids. “Whatever attractions and facilities we can get in the core of the city is a good thing.”

The latest price tag on the flood project is $750 million, but the full extent of where the money will come from remains a mystery.

When finished, the system will protect the city to the 2008 flood volume. The system, though, will be built 4.5 feet higher than the 31-foot flood crest because the new infrastructure would make that volume of water rise higher, Davis said.

Some in attendance, such as Matthew Wilding, came to learn what pieces of the system have been built and get an update on where things stand.

Lijun Chadima, owner of the Cherry Building in the New Bohemia District and a few other properties downtown, was interested to learn about the potential for parking lot 44, a sprawling swath of pavement along the river between Eighth and 12th avenues SE. Chadima said she supports using the space for a mix of new development and parking.

“I like a lot of what I’ve seen. They just need to be faster,” Chadima said. “A lot of investors have put a lot into this area. We need to see protection in place.”

Among other decision points are whether to stick with the existing alignment that has a flood wall wrapped around the Quaker Oats property or an alternative, which would extend the wall around Cedar Lake.

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The alternative would not cause additional flooding and would protect an additional 80 to 90 properties. However, it would drive up costs by $30 million to $40 million.

Several in attendance said they preferred the Cedar Lake alignment.

“It’s more complete protection when looking at the two options,” said Ron DeChristopher, of Cedar Rapids. “And with the improvements planned for Cedar Lake, it makes sense.”

A smaller project is to relocate the monuments that had been in Masaryk Park, on the east side of the Cedar River near 12th Avenue SE, to make way for a levee.

One proposal is to place the monuments commemorating historical figures in Cedar Rapids history and interpretive panels capturing New Bohemia District roots along the riverwalk trail. The budget is not expected to top $500,000, and the project could be tackled in 2019.

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