ARTICLE

Cedar Rapids' area across river from downtown now Kingston Village

Name has historic significance for area; developers hope to make it 'go-to' place

Fred Timko (right) of Down to Earth Development, LLC, talks about the Kingston Commons development with Nate Holler duri
Fred Timko (right) of Down to Earth Development, LLC, talks about the Kingston Commons development with Nate Holler during an Urban Living in Downtown Cedar Rapids open house in May. Timko, who is renovating the bank and will break ground next week on his 17-unit condominium tower on First Street SW next to the bank in the newly-designated Kingston Village. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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Just wait: The day is coming when you’ll know where to go to be in Kingston Village just like you now know, for instance, how to find New Bohemia.

This week, the City Council approved a resolution which named the area across the Cedar River from downtown as Kingston Village.

In part, the move came out of necessity: Some of the area is in the 100-year flood plain where the city now owns numerous properties it has purchased with federal funds as part of the city’s flood recovery buyout program.

Federal rules generally prohibit redevelopment on those newly vacant lots in the 100-year flood plain, but the city has obtained an exception from the Iowa Economic Development Authority that permits targeted redevelopment in areas with historic standing or areas that are "viable business districts."

The council vote this week created Kingston Village as a "viable business district,’ which upon IEDA approval, will allow redevelopment to take place there.

The district is bounded by the Cedar River on the east, Interstate 380 and First Avenue West on the north, Sixth Street on the west and Eighth Avenue SW to the south.

Included in the viable business district is a key area — between Interstate 380 and Second Avenue SW and First and Third streets SW — where a casino is proposed to be built.

City Council member Don Karr played the key role in coming up with the Kingston name, a name he has been using routinely for a year or so.

Karr, the author of a pictorial history of Cedar Rapids from 1880 to 1915, on Friday said it made sense to tag the neighborhood directly across the river from downtown with the name Kingston because the spot began as the town of Kingston in the 19th Century before being annexed into Cedar Rapids in 1871.

In fact, a west-side development group that Karr is a part of decided this week to try to further define a piece of Kingston Village closest to the river as Kingston Square. Kingston Square will center in the first three blocks where the original Kingston stood and now is where the historic Louis Sullivan-designed bank and some historic storefronts are being renovated on Third Avenue SW and where the Cedar Rapids casino is proposed to be built.

Developer Fred Timko, who is renovating the bank and will break ground next week on his 17-unit condominium tower on First Street SW next to the bank, said the west-side development group imagines the smaller Kingston Square to be the commercial core and "the little fun area" like New Bohemia with the rest of the Kingston Village used more as a residential area.

Mark Stoffer Hunter, the Cedar Rapids historian, on Friday confirmed that the 400-person town of Kingston comprised about the first four west-side blocks across the Cedar River from downtown, and he added that the proposed casino site would have been in the heart of the former town of Kingston.

"I’m really thrilled that they are using the Kingston name," Stoffer Hunter said. "I just felt very strongly when redevelopment ideas were coming through for that area that it was very important to have a way to bring back the Kingston name permanently to the area where it was historically."

He said he’s heard some talk that some of the redevelopment projects proposed for the area also will use the Kingston name, and Timko noted that his condominium project is called Kingston Commons.

City Council member Ann Poe initially was among those who floated the idea of calling the Kingston Village area something like West Village not unlike the east side of the Des Moines River from downtown Des Moines is called East Village. On Friday, Poe said West Village was a "placeholder" for a name until something better emerged.

"I would really rather have it called Kingston Village because it really does then become a part of our fabric of what we were," she said.

Poe suspected that Kingston Village will become a matter-of-fact part of the city’s geography once, as was the case in New Bohemia, development starts to take off."As it starts growing and it really becomes one of those places that you want to be, I think you’ll see everybody embrace the name," she said. "It will be a go-to place just like New Bo is. … When that transformation takes place, we won’t really need to explain where Kingston Village is or what the historical significance of its name is."

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