CEDAR RAPIDS — A City Hall task force says the city should venture onto vacant property in the 100-year flood plain to build a new recreation center in the Time Check neighborhood.
On Thursday, the eight-member task force — which includes a majority of the City Council, the ultimate decision-making body — unanimously agreed to move ahead on the idea of building the $3.5 million facility on both sides of J Avenue NW between Ellis Boulevard and Sixth Street NW.
The project cost could climb by $500,000 or more to elevate the property out of the 100-year flood plain with four feet of fill as required by federal rules, former council member Chuck Wieneke said. He’s opposed to spending public money in the 100-year flood plain.
The task force members said using half of the blocks on each side of J Avenue would allow the center to face Ellis and back up to Time Check Park, where its flood-ruined predecessor stood.
Being positioned on the boulevard also would allow the center to serve as a catalyst for new commercial development along the street, task force members said. Council and task force member Monica Vernon said any new development could help to offset the added cost of locating the facility and elevating the site in the 100-year flood plain.
Vernon and fellow council/task force members Ann Poe, Don Karr and Chuck Swore all recently expressed interest another site on Ellis Boulevard NW — the spot where the flood-ruined Boys & Girls Club and former YMCA building sits. However, one homeowner has restored his house behind the building and a recreation center’s parking lot would have to be built around the house, task force members said.
Task force co-chair Dale Todd, a former City Council member, said the J Avenue site will allow the city to connect the recreation center directly to the park with its playground, ball diamond and other amenities, and build on those city resources already in place.
Before its meeting Thursday, the task force took a bus trip with city officials to look at potential sites.
“It was just like it was hidden in plain sight,” Linda Seger, president of the Northwest Neighbors Neighborhood Association and a task force member, said of the J Avenue spot. She said the site would satisfy neighbors who had lobbied to have the center built on the footprint of the old facility.
The plan envisions closing J Avenue NW to through traffic between Ellis Boulevard NW and the Time Check Park.In the past, the City Council has been opposed to spending public dollars in parts of the city that were in the 100-year flood plain. The Floods of 2008 sent 12 feet of water into the old Time Check Recreation Center nearby.