CEDAR RAPIDS — Once slated for demolition, the Kingston Building in Cedar Rapids just got a $1.8 million face-lift and is ready for its debut.
Local not-for-profit Matthew 25 shows off its new home at 201 Third Ave. SW during a grand opening party from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday.
Not only does the public have a chance to tour the space — which includes a tool library, food processing room, office space and a new and improved Groundswell youth community center — also planned is a celebratory ribbon-cutting at 6:30 p.m., an art display by Tanager Place and Eastern Iowa Arts Academy and music performances from local artists Andersen Coates, Clayton Dryden and headliner Brazilian 2wins, who play at 8 p.m.
Matthew 25 has been working in the Cedar Rapids community — particularly in southwest side neighborhoods — for 10 years.
Brothers Clint Twedt-Ball and Courtney Ball founded the organization in 2006 with a mission to transform neighborhoods by investing in food, housing and education. It began with just the two of them working in a choir robe closet in the basement of a local church. The brothers, who are former pastors, walked door to door around the city, knocking and listening as their neighbors explained their dreams for their city.
“We were advised to fall in love with our neighborhood, and that guided us in a lot of ways,” Twedt-Ball said.
They began offering free lunches and classes to bring neighbors together. Then the 2008 flood hit and Matthew 25 partnered with other organizations for the Block by Block initiative in which they invested more than $6 million to rebuild homes in 25 blocks damaged by the flood.
More than 250 families were able to move back into their homes due to their help.
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Since then, Matthew 25 has grown to include 14 employees and a multitude of programs that include rental housing and home improvement, tutoring, a reading program called Book Buddies, five school gardens and an urban farm and learning center that grows fresh, healthy food and teaches youth about sustainable food practices, a tool library for residents and a space for open-mic nights, concerts and other forms of youth art called Groundswell.
Matthew 25 also is home to five Green Iowa AmeriCorps members who perform free weatherizations and home energy audits in the community.
Since their choir robe closet was destroyed in the 2008 flood, however, Matthew 25 has been moving from place to place. Twedt-Ball said to truly invest in their community, they needed a space to “be here for the long haul,” he said.
Two years ago, Matthew 25 launched the Grow Possibilities capital campaign that raised the $1.8 million to renovate the historic Kingston Building.
More than 30 businesses and 100 families participated in the campaign.
Inside the 23,000-square-foot building is a modern, brightly lit space on the main level. Offices and open-concept work space is flooded with natural light from large windows, original tin ceilings and exposed brick that accents the green and white walls. In fact, the new Groundswell space feels less like a warehouse and more like a hip coffee shop, Twedt-Ball said.
OPN Architects donated its design work.
In the basement, Matthew 25 shares 10,000 square feet of storage space with partner organizations such as the Taylor Neighborhood Association, Iowa Valley Food Co-op and the Hawkeye Area Community Action Program, which offers a woodworking program for homeless veterans. Another room has a pingpong table, foosball table, treadmill and even a drum set complete with disco ball.
“We took an unwanted space and turned it into something awesome, which really fits with what we’re all about,” Twedt-Ball said.
IF YOU GO
What: Public opening of Matthew 25’s new location
Where: Kingston Building, 201 Third Ave. SW, Cedar Rapids
When: 6 to 9 p.m. Friday