116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — The city of Cedar Rapids is paring down its request for a share of $100 million in state-awarded federal funds from $27 million to $8.4 million in an effort to enhance outdoor recreation around the greenway along the Cedar River in Czech Village and New Bohemia and raise Iowa’s national profile to lure more tourists to town.
City staff have revised and resubmitted the Destination Iowa program application to the Iowa Economic Development Authority — at the authority staff’s suggestion — with a narrower scope to help gain support for the $119 million plan for a “Greenway Recreation and Revitalization” project. State officials created the Destination Iowa program with federal American Rescue Plan Act funds and invited local governments to apply for a share of the money.
The revised application includes major destination features from the original application in a “LightLine Loop” project totaling $25.6 million that homes in on the Czech Village greenway space. This largely encompasses a roundhouse, recreation zone and plaza area, with a focus on how the funds would boost tourism and recreation — one of the four Destination Iowa funding buckets.
Community Development Director Jennifer Pratt said these amenities build upon the loop created by the proposed Alliant Energy LightLine Bridge that brings the two historic neighborhoods — Czech Village and NewBo — together.
“The projects highlight the city’s history of industrial growth and immigrant story, reflecting the city’s ‘Welcome is our Language’ message,” Pratt said. “It also provides a next-level tourist experience for those visiting our community. The new amenities fill a gap identified by the Cedar Rapids Tourism office for outdoor recreation space that can accommodate the large tourism groups they focus on attracting to our community.”
In the revised application, Cedar Rapids officials suggest that investments in the greenway and tourism experiences have been diverted over the years toward recovery from the 2008 and 2016 floods, including construction of the $750 million permanent flood control system, as well as the 2020 derecho.
The Cedar Rapids Tourism Office has “experienced great success” showcasing the Czech Village and New Bohemia District to visitors — typically attracting 600 to 1,200 spectators for large conventions and conferences, according to the application. But a challenge with tourism attraction has been a “lack of marketable gathering areas with a unique draw in Cedar Rapids.”
City officials estimate the LightLine Loop would solve that problem and result in an economic impact of about $4.7 to $12.5 million a year.
On the NewBo side, funding would support the ConnectCR Park that will sit at the landing of the LightLine Bridge, which will connect the east- and westside core neighborhoods as part of a larger grassroots project to revitalize Cedar Lake north of downtown.
Funding is secured for the $11 million bridge, which will be part of Cedar Rapids’ segment of the American Discovery Trail for pedestrians and bicyclists and is part of the Great American Rail-Trail.
The $1.5 million park includes pedestrian and bicycle amenities for those using the nationwide trail, in addition to historic exhibits that pay homage to the area’s industrial roots. This space was home to the T.M. Sinclair and Co. meatpacking plant, once the fourth-largest in the world.
A new recreational trail along Fourth Street SE from Ninth Avenue to the river also is an already-funded component of the project. This trail will tie to the new pedestrian bridge on the river.
The funding request also covers the $3.2 million, 10-acre Czech Village Greenway Park south of downtown, an open space along the river between 16th and 21st avenues SW, that would tie into the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library to highlight local themes and offer various amenities, including a playground.
A $4 million roundhouse — a reimagination of a historic structure damaged in the 2008 flood — would anchor the north half of the park. The roundhouse aligns with a new $3 million pedestrian promenade spanning from the 16th Avenue commercial corridor to the park. This woonerf — Dutch for “living street” — gathering space will connect the roundhouse with destinations such as the Czech Museum, African American Museum of Iowa, CSPS Hall, NewBo City Market and other attractions.
An element from the original pitch excluded in the revised one includes an enhanced street network with new and improved streets as well as street extensions — six projects in NewBo and one in Czech Village.
Pratt said the street network is in the city’s Capital Improvement Program, and development projects often accelerate street construction timing. “While having the street network completed as one large project would have been ideal, it is typical to complete street networks in phases as development occurs,” Pratt said. “We have already had a lot of interest in the undeveloped properties in the Czech Village and New Bohemia District.”
Destination Iowa applicants must show they have secured at least 60 percent of the funding toward their projects, which must be complete by 2026. IEDA began taking applications May 9 and will review them as they arrive through Dec. 31 or until funding runs out.
So far, Gov. Kim Reynolds and the IEDA have awarded $16.5 million in grant money to four projects in the first round of funding through Destination Iowa, including the development of a “Field of Dreams” television series, new trail construction and new Des Moines lakefront amenities.
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