116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - A northwest neighborhood plaza that has been in discussion since the 2008 flood is advancing in Cedar Rapids with hopes of substantial completion by the 10-year flood anniversary on June 13, 2018, after gaining approval from the Cedar Rapids City Council on Tuesday.
The plaza design includes a concrete seating area with a blue light feature paying tribute to how residents signaled they weren't abandoning their neighborhood after the flood, interpretive signs, plantings and wavy banner stating 'Gateway to the River” over O Avenue NW.
'This was designed with neighborhood feedback,” Rob Davis, Cedar Rapids flood control manager, told the council.
The council voted unanimously to approve the design and $180,000 in expected cost. The plaza would be along O Avenue NW between Ellis Boulevard and Sixth Street.
City Council member Ann Poe, who grew up in that area, said the area has lost so much. The Northwest Neighborhood has been one of the slowest-to-recover flood-affected areas.
'This is a small investment in what the future of the area is going to look like,” Poe said. 'We've not given up on the northwest side ... This reminds everyone we still care about that portion of our community.”
In a separate project, a private effort is underway to erect a memorial called West Side Rising, which would be a companion to the plaza.
Charles Elias of Cedar Rapids spoke against the plan during a public hearing before the vote.
'You could probably put five or six houses down there for the same cost as the plaza,” Elias said.
'I ask gateway to where. I have homeless vets eating out of Dumpsters. Can't afford minutes to schedule an appointment at the VA … And our city is going to allocate $180,000 to an area we can't habitat with homes. I don't understand the logic.”
In other action at the meeting, an ordinance that in effect bans panhandling along roadways in Cedar Rapids gained final approval.
The panhandling restrictions are couched under a pedestrian safety ordinance by forbidding entering a roadway to transact with motorists at signalized intersections and occupying medians for more than one traffic light cycle throughout the city. The ordinance specifically bans panhandlers from seven intersections along Interstate 380 that don't have sidewalks, including some of the most popular panhandling spots in town.
The ordinance takes effect in 30 days. A violation would be a simple misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail, a fine of $65 to $625, or both.
Redstone row houses
Also Tuesday, the city backed tax incentive packages for two housing developments in Kingston Village.
A 15-unit row house development proposed by Fred Timko called the Redstone at 317 Second Street SW gained City Council backing.
This $2 million development, which would replace the former Wells Fargo Bank drive-through, would include one bedroom, a 'bonus” room and one covered parking spot.
The tax incentive includes 10 years, 100 percent abatement of new tax value, about $280,000 over time. The money would serve as the local match for Workforce Housing Tax Credits through the Iowa Economic Development Authority.
500 on First
The City Council was lukewarm on a second proposal, but backed it nonetheless, 8-1, with Poe opposing.
The proposal from Chad Pelley, business development manager for Ahmann Companies, calls for a $3.8 million, four-story housing complex with 36 studio units at southwest corner of First Street and Fifth Avenue SW. It's called 500 on First.
The city owns a portion of the land, which the council agreed to sell to Pelley for $15,000.
The city agreed to forgive 100 percent of taxes on new value for 10 years, about $350,000, which would be used to secure the same workforce tax credits as the Redstone project. The first floor of the complex would include a 19-stall parking deck.
Poe and Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett said they were 'underwhelmed” by the proposal, wishing it included more features, such as balconies, that engage the river.
'This seems really small for this area,” Corbett said. 'This property is only four stories, while other buildings adjacent to it are much higher, a couple stories above it, with balconies. This does seem very vanilla to me.
'With this hot area of Kingston, it just seems, I'll echo council member Poe's comments, I'm underwhelmed.”
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