Government

Cedar Rapids considers 'creative solutions' as it fine-tunes flood protection design

Geese congregate near the edge of a 4.4-acre detention basin and a 12-foot wide bicycle and pedestrian trail that is part of the Sinclair levee flood protection system in southeast Cedar Rapids. The city is fine-tuning the design for the system and has scheduled an 11 a.m. Monday meeting at City Hall to gather input on the urgency of completing the system. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Geese congregate near the edge of a 4.4-acre detention basin and a 12-foot wide bicycle and pedestrian trail that is part of the Sinclair levee flood protection system in southeast Cedar Rapids. The city is fine-tuning the design for the system and has scheduled an 11 a.m. Monday meeting at City Hall to gather input on the urgency of completing the system. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids planners are getting “creative” with an eye to efficiency, aesthetics and preserving space for redevelopment as they fine-tune the design for a permanent flood control system in the city.

One of the more intriguing redesign proposals is near the historic Mott and Chelsea buildings on the Cedar River’s west bank near the McGrath Amphitheatre.

The proposed levee would shrink from up to 19 feet tall down to about 9 feet, with a fold-up wall that would come out atop the levee in the event of severe flooding.

“There would be no wall along the river; all you’d see is grass with a 16-foot concrete path down the middle,” said Rob Davis, Cedar Rapids flood control manager. “That allows a narrower footprint and allows for better viewing of these historic buildings and out (to the river).”

“This is one of our more creative solutions.”

Closer to McGrath Amphitheatre the levee would have built in storage chambers and restrooms. Also, the changes near the amphitheater would allow better access for production trucks and pedestrians with disabilities

The Cedar Rapids Flood Control System Committee on Tuesday supported about a dozen fairly minor changes to the flood control master plan, which was adopted in 2015. The City Council will be asked to give final approval at an upcoming meeting.

“This project has a practical purpose — protect the city and the people in it — but it also is an opportunity to have a once in three- or four-generation development project that would bring people to the river,” said council member Tyler Olson, who chairs the committee. “So, keeping those two purposes in mind will serve us well as we continue to construct.”

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B.J. Hobart, of Hobart Historic Restoration, which restored the Chelsea and Mott buildings, said she likes the concept but questions the effectiveness of a fold-up wall.

“Sounds like they see a real value to the view there and the foot traffic going through there, so that is encouraging,” Hobart said.

Hobart is waiting for more clarity on the flood plan design and timeline before starting on a new building called the Savoy between the Chelsea and Mott.

Monday meeting

City officials announced a special meeting at 11 a.m. Monday at City Hall City Council chambers to take input from developers, neighborhood stakeholders and members of the general public about their sense of urgency for completing the system, which has only started coming together in the past two years and is projected to take at least another 15 to complete.

The city is more than $400 million short in financing the estimated $750 million project, and Olson and others are looking to solidify a funding plan.

Among other proposed changes to the design:

• Elimination of a removable flood wall adjacent to the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in favor of a levee, which would be terraced down to create a grassy hill. “For the museum, that is a good development because it preserves some usable space for us that is presentable and usable for programming,” museum spokesman Forrest Meyer said.

• Reduction of flood gates on bridges and roads from 35 to about 25, which should make the system more effective and eliminate some cost.

• Addition of a detention basin on Q Avenue NW on eight acres of city-owned land.

• Adjustment of levee alignment near the old Cooper’s Mill site to create more space on the dry side for redevelopment.

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The City Council also will be asked to approve fiscal 2019 contracts with design consultants, including $1.75 million for Stanley Construction, which is working on the east side of the river, and $1.1 million for HR Green, which is working on the west side.

l Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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