White Elephant Building could meet wrecking ball

Historic commission to consider demolition request

The exterior of the White Elephant Building on March 8, 2016. (B.A. Morelli, The Gazette)
The exterior of the White Elephant Building on March 8, 2016. (B.A. Morelli, The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — The 135 year old building that housed a long standing thrift store — The White Elephant — is up for demolition, but city officials want to put on the brakes to see if it can be moved.

Light blue paint peeled off the siding of the two-story wood framed structure at 1010 Third Street SE, some windows are shattered, and bits of the foundation are crumbling off. It looked much different on Tuesday than when Sharon Nielson, 80, found buys for a quarter as early as 1953.

“I like to save everything,” the Springville woman said looking at the building before lunch with friends at Bata’s, a neighboring restaurant. “But, I am not sure about this.”

The Historic Preservation Commission will consider building owner Jamey Stroschine’s request for a demolition permit when it meets on Thursday. City staff are recommending putting a hold on demolition if the commission is willing to help find a new location for the structure.

Stroschine is amendable to relocating the building as long as it occurs within the 60 day demolition review period, according to city documents prepared for the commission.

Some in the neighborhood are adamant about saving the old icon.

“The White Elephant was a staple,” said Joel Kane, owner of Bata’s. “It’s really all about salvaging the buildings we can. This was a landmark down here before the flood.”

The building, one of the last original storefronts in that area, sits vacant in the heart of the New Bohemia district along a row of new or remodeled brick buildings with restaurants, coffee shops and soon the punchy T-shirt shop, Raygun.


“The White Elephant Building” is considered a historic structure contributing in the Bohemian Commercial Historic District, according to city documents.

A couple of years ago, an entrepreneur discussed starting a brewery there, and last fall Stroschine brought a plan to preserve the facade with a complete remodel of the rest before the city’s Design Review Technical Committee.

In the end, none of the options panned out.

According to the city documents, the suggested avenues for preservation were either too expensive or not feasible. Stroschine has also already explored moving the building and worked with a preservation group to take it over, but neither were viable, according to the city documents.

Dale Todd, chairman of the Southside Investment Board and a member of the city’s design review committee, said demolition was never part of the equation when the plans came before the design committee, and he would like to see it preserved either where it sits or at a new location.

“The demolition of the building puts a gap in the block, and it’s one of the last historical buildings in the district,” Todd said. “There is significant investment on both sides and this one is worth the extra effort to preserve.”



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