116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Following a year of planning and negotiations, the Unitarian Universalist Society of Iowa City congregation will vote on a specific proposal for relocating from its downtown home.
The congregation will vote Feb. 1 on a proposal that likely will involve the purchase of a few acres in east Iowa City and a sale of the current site at 10 S. Gilbert St.
Ninety-one percent of the congregation voted in November 2013 against renovating the site and in favor of finding new facilities.
Tim Adamson, chairman of the facilities steering committee, said an official agreement - which involves a property owner and Jessie Allen of Allen Homes - still is coming together.
'We have discussed a plan that we believe would be very viable for us, but it involves working with a developer,” Adamson said. 'Those negotiations are ongoing. We'd rather really not talk about the details at this moment.”
Adamson said the negotiations likely will include selling the society's space on Gilbert Street to Allen in exchange for a few acres the local developer is working to acquire in east Iowa City.
Allen likely would develop the downtown site, while the Unitarian Universalist Society would contract with another developer to build a facility on the acquired property, Adamson said.
Ultimately, the deal would be contingent on the roughly 350-member congregation's vote. A detailed plan will be presented to the members before votes are cast.
Adamson said the decision to relocate has been building for some time.
'The society has been considering new facilities for about 20 years. It's a long conversation,” he said. 'A few years ago we decided to really go back to look at our mission and our vision to make sure we are all clear in who we are and what we want to do in the community.”
The Gilbert Street site has been standing since 1908. The congregation faces two key challenges - the aging building no longer suits the society's needs, and the congregation is landlocked into the lot with little room for expansion, said the Rev. Steven Protzman.
'The building no longer meets our needs, it is not accessible, it isn't large enough and it isn't flexible to meet our mission,” Protzman said.
Costs associated with an agreement still are being negotiated, Protzman said.
Despite the size constraints and overwhelming vote in support for relocating, Protzman acknowledged the decision to move doesn't sit well with everyone.
'There's mixed feelings about that. Some people would very much like to stay downtown,” Protzman said. 'The most important thing is that we are able to achieve our mission wherever we are.”
The society was founded in 1838, and the Gilbert Street location actually is its third, Protzman added.
In the end, Protzman said, whatever the decision, care will be taken to make sure the new building lasts another 100-plus years.
'We do want to be thoughtful about making a new decision because we are in it for the long term,” he said.