Cedar Rapids westside rises with new flood memorial sculpture and plaza

'Hope, resiliency and revitalization'

CEDAR RAPIDS — Contractors continued erecting the frame of a new flood memorial called Westside Rising in the Time Check neighborhood just northwest of downtown on Thursday.

The memorial sculpture, which started going up this week, features a series of stainless steel beams oriented into outlines of houses, some tilted and some standing upright. It pays tribute to the blue collar neighborhood and people that lost so much during the flood of 2008, which crested at 31.12 feet on June 13, 2008.

“The tilted houses show devastation of the neighborhood; the upright houses are symbolic of rebuilding,” said Gary Hinzman, who helped bring the project to life. “This is a remembrance of the hardworking people who lived here and worked here and helped build this community.”

A dedication for the memorial and a complimentary Gateway to the River Memorial Plaza just east of the O Avenue-Ellis Boulevard NW intersection is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Wednesday.

The plaza, which was just built, features benches and a sloping concrete wall whose peak matches the high water mark of the 2008 flood. A new arch spans high above O Avenue NW declaring “Gateway to the River.” The plaza is on the north side of the street and the memorial sculpture on the southside.

The memorial structure is built on a hill and when finished will stand 31 feet tall — the two tallest pieces are scheduled to be mounted on Monday — so it can be visible from along the Cedar River and Ellis Boulevard, Hinzman said. A clock, which has yet to be installed, will permanently reflect the time of the crest — 10:15 a.m.

“Hope, resiliency and revitalization — those are the words I think of,” said Susie Weinacht, a City Council member who was instrumental in the project. “There’s an energy when you see it. You can just feel it. It’s palpable.”

The city paid for the plaza and archway portion, while private funds paid for the sculpture.


Lighting will be placed to illuminate the sculpture, which also will give a nod to the blue porch lights residents used to signify they’d returned to their homes after the flood, said Al Pierson, president of the Northwest Neighborhood Association.

“I think this project will spur development in this neighborhood,” Pierson said. “We want more housing, more people, maybe a coffee shop.”

Pierson played a key role in raising money for the $250,000 sculpture. The Hall-Perrine Foundation was one of the big contributors, providing 50-cents for every dollar raised up to $75,000.

Doug Dvorak grew up a block away from the memorial and plaza, survived the flood of 2008 flood, and with the help of volunteers mucked out and rebuilt that same home where he still lives today. Dvorak remembers trying to wait out the flood but as water started pouring into the main floor — the basement was already full — he grabbed his dog and basket of clothes and abandoned his home. He barely drove away with water up to the floor board of his Jeep. He slept his car that night thinking he’d come back in the morning, but as it turned out water was still rising.

The 10 year anniversary brings back a lot of memories, Dvorak said while checking out the work on the sculpture. He said he hopes the memorial will bring more attention to this part of town, which he said often gets neglected in terms of maintenance and tree care.

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