CEDAR RAPIDS — Bart Woods has spent the past few decades leaving his mark on Cedar Rapids by solving land use puzzles through building design and construction, such as creating a new home for Raining Rose where an eyesore long dragged down First Avenue East or helping move and save the beloved old White Elephant building.
Now he is looking to put his stamp on the community in another, more personal, way.
The 57-year-old completed the sale of Primus Construction to Jason Drewelow in January after 25 years at the company, including the last 18 as owner.
Scaling down his workload has provided time to pursue a new passion.
He is helping launch Kingdom Community Center, which aims to provide youth programming and mentorship in the Wellington Heights and Mound View neighborhoods.
“My dream job is my last job,” Woods said.
Woods is among nine directors of the Kingdom center, which has raised about $300,000 of a $1 million fundraising campaign they hope leads to a June opening and a summer facility renovation at 1700 B Ave. NE.
They would share the facility with Mission of Hope and Victory Grace Baptist Church.
The impetus for the organization is statistics.
The Wellington Heights and Mound View neighborhoods combine for 5.6 percent of Cedar Rapids’ population and 1.8 percent of its land area, yet 36.7 percent of all assaults, 31.1 percent of all burglaries, 32.2 percent of all drug arrests, 19.9 percent of all motor vehicle thefts and 45.5 percent of all weapons violations.
In the neighborhoods, 31.5 percent of residents have not completed high school compared to 6.4 percent citywide, according to the organization, citing census and police data.
Faith has driven and guided Woods since a young age, born and raised in Cedar Rapids. He and his wife, Jenny, have four adult children.
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He always knew he wanted to be an architect, but after a year at Iowa State University, he dropped out and took a job as a draftsman back in Cedar Rapids. He bounced around to a couple of jobs, building a reputation and skill set for commercial development and an entrepreneurial spirit.
“I have a creative itch,” he said.
He interviewed with Primus founder Don Primus in the mid-1990s and made clear he hoped to own his own company someday.
“I know, as a business owner, I don’t have total control, but I don’t want someone from Minneapolis to call me and say (what happens to me),” he said. “So I really wanted to own my own company.” Primus made no promises but was open to a possible transition plan, which came to fruition in 2002. Along the way, the company found a niche, building more than 2,000 dental offices, and the staff has grown to 45 people at multiple locations.
Most recently, Woods has been working to save the old Ambroz Recreation Building, formerly Buchanan Elementary, which sits vacant on Mount Vernon Road SE.
He and investors had initially pitched a senior housing project there, but are shifting gears to market-rate apartments and condos and adding 10 row houses on the perimeter of the property along 20th and 21st streets SE.
He also is an elder at Veritas Church, and while the church is not directly involved, the values of serving others do come across in the Kingdom Community Center mission.
“I have a love for this city,” Woods said. “I love old buildings, and I love old neighborhoods, and I love kids.”
• If you’re interested in making a donation to the Kingdom Community Center, email Bart Woods at email@example.com or call him at (319) 533-2687.
Comments: (319) 398-8310; firstname.lastname@example.org