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What's the status of the American Prairie project in Cedar Rapids?

Developer, city in talks over proposed TIF district for plan that includes hundreds of housing units

The American Prairie project, developed by CBD LLC, is slated to bring hundreds of new residential units to what current
The American Prairie project, developed by CBD LLC, is slated to bring hundreds of new residential units to what currently is 140 agricultural acres off Wright Brothers Boulevard SW in Cedar Rapids. (Thomas Friestad/The Gazette)

Background

During the first half of 2019, Cedar Rapids officials reviewed multiple iterations of what would be one of the city’s largest ever residential projects, under which hundreds of new homes would be built over the next decade.

The American Prairie project in January 2019 was introduced with 487 residential units — spread across single-family homes, duplexes, fourplexes and multifamily homes — and some commercial space, on about 140 acres south of Wright Brothers Boulevard SW, between Earhart Lane SW and Club Road.

Around that time, the Cedar Rapids City Council approved a request by then-property owners Deborah A. and David Krivanek, of Krivanek Farm, for a 100 percent voluntary annexation of their farm into the city, where it could access city services and become more enticing for redevelopment.

Developer Casey Boyd, of Boyd Development in Solon, later added an extra 96 residential units to the estimated $20 million project, for 583 units in total, after revising some lots intended for single-family homes to duplexes.

City Council members in late May 2019 approved an initial consideration to rezone 135 acres of agricultural land to a Suburban Residential Low Flex district, plus five acres to a Suburban Mixed Use Community Commercial district, and amended the future land use map to urban-medium intensity for the property.

Some council members, however, expressed concern about density and urged Boyd to dedicate some land for public recreation.

So the developer revised the project plans to dedicate 4.5 acres for a new park at the center of the development and trails to tie into surrounding trail systems.

Accordingly, the City Council in June approved the second and third rezoning considerations.

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The city’s Planning Commission in late June approved a preliminary plat, but a final plat for the project has not yet come before council members for approval.

What has happened since?

Work has continued on the American Prairie project.

Krivanek Farm LLC in July sold the four property parcels making up the 140-acre project site to Boyd’s CBD LLC for $4.35 million.

Boyd said he and other development team members have continued work on project elements, including making sanitary sewer arrangements, upgrading two lift stations and buying three land easements.

The developer and Cedar Rapids also have discussed two new roundabouts to serve heightened traffic from the development — one along Wright Brothers Boulevard, at a new access road called Sundrop Lane SW, and another at Kirkwood Boulevard.

On April 9, Boyd submitted a concept plan to the city’s development services division, reflecting 402 townhome units and several commercial uses on 57.47 of the property’s 140 acres.

Boyd said these homes will be a combination of four-, six- and eightplexes, under three stories because of proximity to The Eastern Iowa Airport, and priced around $175,000 to attract younger homebuyers.

“I don’t want to do ‘conventional’ anymore,” Boyd told The Gazette. “I want to listen to the millennials and the part of the housing movement that I believe is happening because I think the younger generation wants change and they want value.”

The submitted plan reflects the portion of the property for which Boyd and city officials have discussed a proposed tax increment financing district, he said.

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Caleb Mason, the city’s economic development analyst, said incentives for the American Prairie development would fall under the city’s large site master plan program, used for mixed-use projects on at least 15 acres. The incentives could include a 10-year, 100 percent tax reimbursement on the residential piece, plus a 10-year, 50 percent reimbursement on the commercial side.

The valuation of those incentives will be ironed out as the project’s scope is defined, Mason said.

Proposed commercial uses on the property’s northeast corner include a 10,000-square-foot mixed-use commercial building — possibly for Jersey Mike’s Subs, Boyd said — an 8,000-square-foot bank and a 4,000-square-foot office building with mailboxes.

An additional 16,000-square-foot building depicts a youth sports center run by former Hawkeye and NFL wide receiver Tim Dwight, though Boyd said those plans are not set in stone, and that building instead could house a solar business or fitness center.

Boyd said he hopes to complete site pipework this fall and build around 40 residential units over the winter to sell next spring. The entire development could take 12 to 14 years to build out, he said.

“We’re trying to engineer a big enough piece of ground with a high enough housing density to get to an affordability that we think really will work well in Cedar Rapids,” he said.

Comments: (319) 398-8366; thomas.friestad@thegazette.com

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