Cedar Rapids incentive program helping bank implement stormwater management project

Parking lot, and what's beneath it, to reduce runoff

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CEDAR RAPIDS — When finished, the plot of land at the corner of Sixth Street and First Avenue NE in downtown Cedar Rapids is likely to look like a simple parking lot.

But beneath the surface will be a system of fabric, sand and rocks designed to capture and filter stormwater and keep it from running off the property.

The project, by Cedar Rapids Bank & Trust, is being completed as part of the city’s Stormwater Best Management Practices Cost-Share Program that provides property owners financial and technical assistance in implementing infiltration practices for improving water quality and reducing the amount of stormwater runoff.

Financial assistance helps cover the cost of materials and contractor labor for completing the projects. Infiltration projects can range from rain gardens and bioretention cells to pervious pavement and soil quality restoration.

The city provides reimbursement up to 50 percent of the project cost.

Anyone subject to the city’s stormwater utility fee is eligible to participate in the program. The city set aside $250,000 this year in match funding.

More information is available at http://bit.ly/2mfjoKl.

John Rodriguez, executive vice president and cashier for Cedar Rapids Bank & Trust, 500 First Ave. NE, said his company purchased the lot last year and is spending about $300,000 for the upgrades.

He said the city is reimbursing about $35,000 — or half the roughly $70,000 being spent by the bank on the portion of the project that deals with capturing stormwater runoff.

The system was designed by Anderson Bogert Engineers & Surveyors, Rodriguez said.

Cedar Rapids Bank & Trust was approved for reimbursement by the Cedar Rapids Stormwater Commission, as well as a stormwater utility fee reduction of 75 percent based on zero stormwater discharge for a 100-year storm over 24 hours, city officials said.

“We thought about ... wanting to be a good citizen,” said Rodriguez. “We’re downtown near the river. We know some of the flooding is caused by runoff of asphalt and concrete. We bought the property and were going to continue it as a parking lot, so we said ‘If we were going to do it, then let’s do it right and ... stop the runoff in that area.’”

A portion of the parking lot will be constructed with permeable pavers allowing the stormwater from the area to flow between the pavers, through a fabric filter and layer of sand and enter a rock aggregate chamber and then infiltrate into the ground. This means that during a rain event, the site is being designed to keep it’s stormwater on site and put it back into the ground instead of running down the street or going into the city’s stormwater pipes, city officials said.

“This is a great example of a community partner going above and beyond for stormwater management,” said Sara Baughman, Cedar Rapids utilities communications coordinator. “The more infiltration practices we continue to have installed ... our city can have a localized impact on capturing rain events, reducing the localized flooding and improving the water quality.”

Rodriguez said the bank plans to landscape the area, tying it in with the nearby MedQuarter. Signs to let the public know about the project also are planned.

“We might put up some kind of permanent sign letting people know about the project to further educate people what we can do capture more water on our properties,” said Rodriguez. “That location is a prime visibility location. ... We saw it as an opportunity to show other companies and people what this can look like. We want downtown to look nice.”

As part of the project crews were at the site earlier this month digging out remnants of houses that once stood there.

Those houses were torn down in the early 1950s, said Mark Stoffer Hunter, historian at the The History Center in Cedar Rapids.

“In those days, they just knocked the homes down and buried stuff in the basements,” said Hunter. “You could have quite an archaeological dig there.”

Hunter said the land eventually became part of the Baxter auto sales lot and later a Chevrolet dealership.

Rodriguez said the foundations of the old homes were discovered, but crews didn’t find any interesting artifacts.

The lot sits between Cedar Rapids Bank & Trust and the Taco Bell restaurant. It will be used for employee parking.

l Comments: (319) 398-8260; rob.clark@thegazette.com

Program Snapshot

Here is a summary of the awarded projects from the beginning of 2017 through the Stormwater Best Management Practices Cost-Share Program:

l $75,000 has been cost-shared with non-residential partners on five projects that include permeable pavers and biocells. This totals infiltrating 28,493 cubic feet — or 213,146 gallons — for a typical rain event of 1.25 inches.

l $4,138 has been cost-shared with residential partners on rain gardens, soil quality restoration and permeable pavers.

Source: City of Cedar Rapids

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