NEWS

Historic church will come down

First Christian Church will be demolished to make way for a PCI medical pavilion parking lot

Crews demolish the 1928 former Swab Motor dealership and most recently, Teena's Classic Furniture, 829 Second Ave. SE, on Tuesday, May 15, 2012. First Christian Church, 840 Third Ave. SE is seen behind the debris. (photo/Cindy Hadish)
Crews demolish the 1928 former Swab Motor dealership and most recently, Teena's Classic Furniture, 829 Second Ave. SE, on Tuesday, May 15, 2012. First Christian Church, 840 Third Ave. SE is seen behind the debris. (photo/Cindy Hadish)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Mayor Ron Corbett’s intervention and the offer of $300,000 aren’t enough to save a historic church from the wrecking ball.

Protesters continued this week to picket the planned demolition of First Christian Church, 840 Third Ave. SE.

Laura Rainey, a spokeswoman for St. Luke’s Hospital, which bought the church as part of the site for the Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa medical pavilion, said demolition has been delayed four months to give people time to submit viable proposals for its use.

“No one came forward,” she said Tuesday, so demolition will likely start next week.

The Save CR Heritage preservation group had raised $45,000, but not the remainder of the $900,000 purchase price and $2 million renovation estimate, Rainey said.

Corbett said he had dedicated his own time to come up with an alternative to demolition of the church, for which celebrated architect Louis Sullivan was a consultant and glass artist Louis Millet designed windows.

The resolution was an offer from the city to provide about $300,000 toward the renovation of the building for offices or other reuse. Those funds could have come from the Federal Emergency Management Agency or other sources, Corbett said, and as details were still being discussed, he put the offer on the table.

“I’m really sad about it” not working, he said.

Combined with historic tax credits, the contribution would have made a dent in the cost to remodel the building for commercial use and put it on the city’s tax rolls.

The church, dedicated in 1913, and a furniture building are being torn down to make way for a parking lot for the PCI medical pavilion under construction at Second Avenue and 10th Street SE. City plans show 40 spots at the site of the church, which St. Luke’s purchased for $695,000.

The hospital and The Carl & Mary Koehler History Center are working to find a home for the Millet-designed windows.

Next door, a late 1800s mansion-turned-apartment at 834 Third Ave. SE was demolished Tuesday. Representatives of St. Luke’s, which bought the building in 2010 for $447,000, have said it had become dilapidated.

St. Luke’s officials said the medical district and PCI medical pavilion are important catalysts for economic growth.

“While preserving the history of our city is an important endeavor,” they said in a statement, “it must be done in a balanced manner to not impede progress.”

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