Government

Cedar Rapids City Council to consider advancing $52 million plans for 'Banjo Block'

Proposal calls for housing units, commercial space

This rendering shows Banjo Flats, an apartment complex being proposed for the Banjo Block in downtown Cedar Rapids. TWG
This rendering shows Banjo Flats, an apartment complex being proposed for the Banjo Block in downtown Cedar Rapids. TWG Development, of Indianapolis, is proposing a 249-unit, market-rate complex on the block at Fourth Avenue and Fifth Street SE. (TWG Development)

CEDAR RAPIDS — A long-underused property at the city’s core, known as the “Banjo Block,” will take another step toward its rebirth Tuesday.

The Cedar Rapids City Council at its noon meeting, streamed via Facebook Live, will hold a public hearing to consider approving a resolution authorizing the execution of a development agreement with Indianapolis-based TWG Development to build a $52 million mixed-use facility on the block at Fourth Avenue and Fifth Street SE, which is adjacent to the Cedar Rapids Public Library and Greene Square. The block is dubbed “Banjo” for Banjo Refrigeration, a business that long operated there.

The council enthusiastically backed the preliminary plans in September, eyeing its potential to spur additional development around the block and the need for additional housing units in Cedar Rapids.

The four-story, approximately 200,000 square-foot project would feature 211 rental units, primarily one- and two-bedroom units; 1,176 square feet of ground-level commercial space, 147 parking stalls and amenities. The term sheet the council approved in September included amenities such as a pool, fitness center, bike storage, community room and rooftop patio.

The developer also would enter into a master parking lease with Park Cedar Rapids to provide no less than 150 off-street parking spaces as part of the project, according to the proposal.

The developer would work with local historic not-for-profit organizations to salvage architectural materials from existing buildings and incorporate those through plaques, photographs or other means to honor the history of the block.

In addition to the workers employed in the commercial space, preliminary plans also call for the developer to employ four other on-site workers.

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The city would reimburse up to 100 percent of the incremental taxes generated by the project, reaching a total present-day value of more than $6 million.

But the state may roll out workforce housing tax credits, city Economic Development Analyst Caleb Mason previously said. If those are approved, he said the city would reduce its financial participation in the project based on the state incentives approved by the Iowa Economic Development Authority.

If the council approves the proposed agreement, construction would start no later than July 31 and wrap up within 24 months.

Community members may sign up on Zoom via the city’s website, cedar-rapids.org, to comment during the meeting on specific agenda items or during public comment. People also may email cityclerk@cedar-rapids.org with comments.

Email comments and signups to comment via Zoom must be received before 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Comments: (319) 398-8494; marissa.payne@thegazette.com

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