Czech museum leaders look ahead to new moving date

Shovels stand ready during the ground-breaking Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010, outside the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids. (Cindy Hadish/The Gazette)
Shovels stand ready during the ground-breaking Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010, outside the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids. (Cindy Hadish/The Gazette)

Eyes from around the world can zoom in on a record-setting move in Cedar Rapids.

Web cameras are being set up to capture the relocation of the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, as well as site preparations in advance of the May 2011 move.

“This is a historic moment for us, and for Cedar Rapids, in flood recovery,” said Gail Naughton, president and CEO of the museum in Czech Village.

Naughton spoke during a frigid ground-breaking ceremony Wednesday, Dec. 15, outside the museum at 30 16th Ave. SW.

Site preparations began just across the street on Dec. 3, as soon as the Federal Emergency Management Agency approved the museum’s improved project.

The FEMA involvement stems from funding used to rebuild the museum, which was swamped by 8 feet of Cedar River floodwaters in June 2008.

Naughton said the goal had been to move the building in February, but waiting for final approval delayed the start of ground work and pushed the move back to May.

The new museum should still be able to open on its target date of May 2012, she said.

Tom Amosson, president of Rinderknecht Associates of Cedar Rapids, the project’s general contractor, said the 16,000-square-foot museum will be turned as it is moved to higher ground, about 600 feet across the street. The rear of the building will become the front of the expanded 50,000-square-foot facility.

Cost to move the 15-year-old building is $713,000, compared to $2 million to demolish and rebuild the structure.

The 1,400-ton building will be the largest museum ever moved in the world, said Rod Scott, spokesman for Jeremy Patterson Structural Movers of Washington, Iowa.

“This will put Cedar Rapids on the map,” he said.

Scott noted that moving preparations are already under way.

Brick will be removed from the lower level to install 35 90-foot steel beams across the museum’s width and four 210-foot beams length-wise. Hydraulic jacks will lift the building before it is rolled on dollies to its new site, above a new parking garage.

The move, at about one-eighth mph, will take about three days.

All can be viewed from the web cams the museum is installing. With ties to the Czech Republic, Slovakia and elsewhere, Naughton expects international interest.

About 35,000 people annually visited the museum before the flood, with a $1 million annual impact. By 2014, the museum projects 54,000 visitors per year.

Wednesday’s event, attended by dignitaries such as Lt. Gen. Ron Dardis, executive director of the Rebuild Iowa Office, marked milestones in the museum’s fundraising efforts.

Naughton said goals have been met for the entire $25 million flood-recovery campaign, including $6 million raised to meet the $3 million challenge grant from the Hall-Perrine Foundation and a $2.5 million Cedar Rapids area campaign.

The museum received $10 million in state I-Jobs funding and a $2.9 million Vision Iowa Community Attraction and Tourism grant.

“Cedar Rapids and Iowa have really stepped up,” Naughton said, citing 302 donors for the entire campaign and 75 percent of the amount coming from the state and from Iowans. “”It’s just humbling to have the support we’ve received, both emotionally and financially.”

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