Cedar Rapids panel compiling list of endangered properties

Historic buildings may be razed

The First Christian Church on Third Avenue SE in Cedar Rapids is among the buildings the city's Historic Preservation Co
The First Christian Church on Third Avenue SE in Cedar Rapids is among the buildings the city's Historic Preservation Commission is considering including on a list of endangered properties. (David Scrivner/The Gazette)

Liz Motsinger sees the odds stacked against her.

The 55-year-old Marion woman is almost single-handedly trying to save a historic church from demolition.

“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone,” Motsinger said, quoting Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” song, known for its lyrics: “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

Motsinger points to the connection.

First Christian Church, 840 Third Ave. SE, was purchased by St. Luke’s Hospital to make way for parking for the forthcoming Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa medical mall.

The church, built in 1912 and eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, hits the century mark this year.

St. Luke’s took out a permit to have the building demolished. A 56-space parking lot is slated for the site, one of five lots and a four-story ramp that will surround the 221,144-square-foot medical mall.

“I think a lot of people just aren’t aware,” said Motsinger, who has passed out fliers, asking people to contact City Hall about the demolition.

Raising awareness about the vulnerability of the city’s historic structures is the purpose behind an “11 most-endangered” list the Cedar Rapids Historic Preservation Commission is compiling. Besides First Christian Church, other buildings under consideration for the list are the Furniture Mart building at 600 First St. SE, Barron Motor Supply building in the 200 block of Third Ave. SW, and the Mott Building at 42 Seventh Ave. SW.

The commission is expected to vote on the list Thursday during a 4:30 p.m. meeting at Community Connections, 1501 First Ave. SE.

Commission member Tim Klima noted that the designation won’t necessarily save any site, but teaches residents about structures “that are slowly and gradually slipping away from us.”

Owners of endangered properties also can be introduced to resources to help preserve their historic properties, he said.

First Christian Church is one of nearly 50 buildings from which the commission will cull its list.

Buildings have already disappeared since the process began last summer.

The city demolished hundreds of homes after the Floods of 2008 and will next raze flood-affected commercial properties.

Two worker cottages from a row that stood across from St. Wenceslaus Church, 1224 Fifth St. SE, were demolished in recent weeks and the former People’s Church, 600 Third Ave. SE, was razed in October to make way for an office building.

That church, which was not flooded, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Motsinger doesn’t want the same to happen to First Christian Church.

A volunteer at Mission of Hope, 1537 First Ave. SE, Motsinger said the building was offered to the non-profit group, if it could move the structure.

The $2.2 million to buy a lot, relocate the building and renovate it was cost-prohibitive, she said.

Motsinger said the building is suited for its current location, where it could house the homeless, provide a place to feed more than 200 needy people per day and offer space for a larger food pantry and clothes closet than its current site.

“We need something that’s centralized in this area and the church building is in the perfect location,” she said.

Executive Director Tina Herring said Mission of Hope will keep its options open as it searches for a larger site.

Motsinger plans to be at Thursday’s meeting, where the commission will vote on the most-endangered list and whether or not to place a 60-day hold on St. Luke’s demolition permit.

“I’m not ready to give up until the wrecking ball swings on that building,” she said.

The list

Preliminary properties under consideration by the Cedar Rapids Historic Preservation Commission to be listed as the most endangered in the city:

  • Louis Sullivan/Wells Fargo Bank building, 101 Third Ave. SW (flood protection construction zone)*
  • Link-Belt/Speeder/Cedar Rapids Public Works, 1201 Sixth St, SW (flood damage)
  • Third Avenue SW, 100 Block Street Wall, including Gatto and Esquire Buildings (flood buyout)
  • Mott Building, 42 Seventh Ave. SW (construction zone)
  • Knutson Building, 525 H St. SW (construction zone)
  • Bever House, 1600 Washington Ave. SE, (parking)
  • Fire Station No. 2, Fifth Street & E Avenue NW (storm sewer reconstruction)
  • Great Furniture Mart building, 600 First St. SE (urban renewal)
  • Old First Baptist Church, 1200 Second Ave. SE (medical district)
  • First Christian Church, 840 Third Ave. SE (medical District)
  • Fire Station No. 3, 1424 B Ave. NE (new central fire station)
  • Czech School/Godwin Family Restaurants, 925 Second St. SE (construction zone)
  • Barron Motor Supply, 200 block of Third Ave. SW (flood buyout)
  • CR Tent & Awning, 1207 Second St. SE, (construction zone)
  • Lifeline Ministries Church, 800 G Ave. NW (flood buyout)
  • Ellis Park (city development)
  • St. Patrick’s Church and related buildings, 120 Fifth St. NW
  • Oak Hill Cemetery (decay)
  • 1400 Block between A Ave and C Ave NE
  • Joens Bros. Building, 59 16th Ave. SW (flood buyout)
  • Grant Wood childhood home, 318 14th St. NE.
  • Luther Brewer house, 847 Fourth Ave. SE (medical district) *
  • Two worker cottages near former Sinclair plant 
  • Salem Church, 221 First Ave. SW (flood buyout)
  • Law Offices, 121 Third St. SW (flood buyout)
  • Emerson Lock, 426 First St. SW (flood buyout)
  • Barbershop, 615 K Ave. NW, (flood buyout)
  • Jesus Church, 726 L Ave. NW (flood buyout)
  • Teena’s Classic Furniture & Interior Design, 829 Second Ave. SE (medical district)
  • House, 1316 Third Ave. SE (owned by St. Paul’s Methodist Church)
  • Church, 1246 Second Ave. SE (medical district)
  • Ilten’s, 106 Second Ave. SW (construction zone)
  • Acme Graphics, 201 Third Ave. SW (flood buyout)
  • Miller Apartments, 111 First Ave. SW (construction zone)

*property listed on the National Register of Historic PlacesSource: Cedar Rapids Historic Preservation Commission  

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