116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — The city will try a third time to sell and repurpose an old brick building on Mount Vernon Road SE that formerly housed the Ambroz Recreation Center.
The 18,700-square-foot building at 2000 Mount Vernon Rd. SE has been closed since 2016 when the parks and recreation department moved to the new Northwest Recreation Center, 1340 11th St. NW.
The city has sought proposals to redevelop the building twice before, but both deals fell through.
In 2017, Cedar Rapids issued a request for proposals for the building and received one proposal that was later withdrawn.
In April 2019, the city sought proposals again and received two. The City Council selected one — turning the building into senior housing — and authorized negotiation of a development agreement
The proposal was withdrawn because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Adam Lindenlaub, a community development planner with the city, told the council’s Development Committee this week.
Council member Ashley Vanorny noted the Cedar Rapids school board is considering consolidating schools in its master facilities plan, which could lead to other school buildings needing to be repurposed.
“We need something like this to work,” Vanorny said. “Here we are at the third iteration of this, and it’s really challenging when the conversation that is generally bubbling up from the facility master plan is, ‘Oh let’s just let the city turn it into housing.’ It’s not as easy as we would like it to be.”
Linn County is expecting to receive $46 million in Community Development Block Grant disaster recovery funds, funneled through the state, and prospective developers may be able to tap into that funding source to help redevelop the 1.5-acre Ambroz site, city officials say.
Most of the federal funds will go toward housing projects.
Lindenlaub said that potential funding was the impetus for issuing another request for proposals, with the same objectives as before:
• Advance a financially viable redevelopment based on current market conditions.
• Encourage investment along the Mount Vernon Road corridor.
• Keep a unique sense of place through renovation or new construction.
The largest portion of the Ambroz building was built in 1903 to house Buchanan Elementary, with an addition made in 1962. Cedar Rapids acquired the building in 1975.
Lindenlaub said a review committee — of neighborhood representatives, non-competing developers and financial experts — will review proposals for the building and make a recommendation to the council. A member of the city Historic Preservation Commission will be on the committee.
After the council’s Development Committee this week supported advancing the request-for-proposals process, the council likely will set a public hearing on the matter July 12. An informational meeting is planned for July 22, with a Sept. 27 deadline for proposals.
The council would consider and select a proposal by Oct. 25, allowing for negotiation of a development agreement in the winter or 2023.
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