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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
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Today's demolition of First Christian Church will become the “poster child,” of sorts, for historic preservation efforts in Cedar Rapids.
“I'm going to make sure that nobody forgets this day,” said Beth Chacey DeBoom, as she recorded crews from D.W. Zinser Co. of Walford demolishing the church shortly after 9 a.m. “I don't want this to happen again. I've seen it too many times.”
Representatives of St. Luke's, which bought the building to make way for a parking lot for the new Physicians' Clinic of Iowa medical pavilion, have said no one offered a viable proposal to purchase and renovate the property.
Save CR Heritage, a preservation group DeBoom leads, had raised $45,000 within weeks, and the city offered to contribute $300,000 toward renovation costs.
The City Council changed parking standards for the medical district earlier this year, so the 40 parking spots were not required for the project, but PCI CEO Mike Sundall has said parking would be tight without the spaces.
Just last week, demonstrators marked the 100
anniversary of the groundbreaking of the church, 840 Third Ave. SE, which was dedicated in 1913 and was eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
Celebrated architect Louis Sullivan was a consultant on the church, with windows designed by glass artist Louis Millet.
The windows, removed before demolition, will be placed in other public buildings in the Corridor.
SLIDESHOW: Demolition of First Christian Church (story continues below slideshow)
St. Luke's issued the following statement Tuesday morning:
St. Luke's has worked over the last year to identify interested parties who might move or invest in re-use of the building to no avail. Nearly fifteen months have passed since the site development plan was approved by the city. We honored the Historic Preservation Commission's 60 day hold and voluntarily waited another 77 days in hopes some viable plan for sustainable preservation would be presented, None has. St. Luke's declined CR Heritage's request to donate the church and delay demolition. The decision is based on lack of a viable proposal for re-use of the facility. More specifically the proposal lacked credible commitments of sufficient resources to fulfill the plan, which had hoped for funds, forgiveness of fees from developers and hoped for tax credits. Estimates are that it would have cost approximately $2 million to renovate and repurpose the church, which did not include the $900,000 purchase price.
We do not believe it is in the best interest of the community to leave a vacant and deteriorating building in the midst of what we believe will be a vibrant and growing medical district.
The church, which was dedicated in the fall of 1913, is not on the National Register of Historic Places - the church's previous owners did not seek this designation. The previous owners sold the church because it had a declining parish (less than 50 members) and the cost of maintenance, repair and utilities was a burden.
St. Luke's is working with The Carl & Mary Koehler History Center to identify appropriate recipients for the Louis Millet stained glass windows and light fixtures that were removed from the church. St. Luke's will keep several windows for its Chapel and for the Helen G. Nassif Community Cancer Center of Iowa. The History Center will add a few examples of the stained glass to its existing collection of First Christian Church materials. St. Luke's will store the remaining pieces for a period of 12 months while The History Center seeks applications to repurpose the windows and light fixtures within public spaces in the Cedar Rapids Corridor. The History Center will announce guidelines and the application process in June. An independent review panel will be formed to evaluate applications. Following the completion of application review process, any remaining windows and light fixtures may be repurposed outside of the local area. Organizations interested in applying for the windows or light fixtures and individuals interested in serving on the review committee should call The History Center at 319/362-1501.
We believe St. Luke's has given every chance for concerned citizens to save this building. No one produced viable proposals. St. Luke's supports preservation of historical buildings in our community with sustainable plans for re-use.