116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Walking down the dark hallways and into empty classrooms at the old Coggon School brings back a lot of memories for Michael LeClere.
And so after the building was abandoned in 2012, after a new elementary school was built in a nearby township, LeClere helped lead an effort to repurpose it as a community center.
'Many of us were graduates of the school and we could just not see it taken down or destroyed like that,” said Dave Patton, who financed much of the project. 'So we formed together with this group and decided we're going to save the building and make it into some kind of community project where the whole community can benefit from it.”
Local businesses can rent space in the building, now called the Coggon Center. It also houses a recreation center and event space. The building is divided in three distinct sections - the original 1909 two-story high school, a 1936 extension and gym and a 1957 addition.
The Coggon Area Betterment Association or CABA, which manages the center, hopes to eventually turn the oldest sections of the building into low-income or senior housing
'It seems to be just a great place for the community,” said Dan Mattes, treasurer of CABA.
The group recently received a $3,000 grant from the Linn County Board of Supervisors and the Linn County Historic Preservation Commission to nominate the building to the National Register of Historic Places, which would open up more grant possibilities.
LeClere, who made repurposing the school his thesis project while studying for his master's in architecture and landscape architecture at the University of Oregon, called the work on the building an 'adaptive reuse project.” He said CABA will be able to argue in its application to the National Register that 'each addition kind of tells a different story.”
LeClere said putting together the nomination is a 'complicated process” that requires background research on the building and an evaluation of its condition.
But Patton said the project is worth it.
'Coggon, especially this building, has meant so much to me,” Patton said. 'This is just such an invaluable place for me.”