Government

History could save an obsolete Cedar Rapids structure

Now you see it, but will you later?

An historic intake station in Mohawk Park is slated for demolition. Photographed in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
An historic intake station in Mohawk Park is slated for demolition. Photographed in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Obsolete city structures in public spaces — an old water booster station on Wilson Avenue SW, housing for a river water intake near Mohawk Park and an old water tower on Blairs Ferry Road NE — are on the city’s demolition list.

The booster station and river intake haven’t been used in years, while the water tower was taken offline last year, said Bruce Jacobs, the city’s utilities engineering manager. Removal will help eliminate maintenance, upkeep costs and safety risks, he said.

“It’s just cleaning up lose ends, I guess,” Jacobs said of the timing.

The demolitions would likely occur within the next year, he said.

But the building for the river intake may wind up being saved because of historic preservation interests, he said.

Historic preservation advocates would like to find a new use for or move the river intake building, but acknowledge moving it is a pricey proposition because of how it is built.

“It will be very expensive to do anything with it because there’s no first floor and it’s very hollow inside,” said Tim Oberbroeckling, vice chairman of the Cedar Rapids Historic Preservation Commission.

Oberbroekling said the building has historic value based on the architecture, which includes arched window and door frames and a non-traditional roof line, as well as its important use. The architecture matches that of the nearby water plant on J Avenue.

Oberbroekling said if it can’t be moved, the building, half of which is underground, perhaps could be saved in place and used as a bathroom and changing area paired with the pavilion at Mohawk Park.

Inside from ground level, stairs immediately drop to a pit with three pumps and a motor. Built in the 1930s as a source of raw water for the J Avenue water plant, by the 1960s the intake became the primary source for city drinking water.

Bacterial blooms in the river compromised the taste and odor of the water, and the site was dropped in favor of alluvial aquifer wells, which had superior quality and consistency, Jacobs said.

The intake was temporarily reinstated in the late 1980s during a drought but quickly was taken offline again because of the same water quality issues, he said.

In addition to the building, a fuel tank is buried underground, and there is an old storage pad and a pier that juts out into the river — all of which must be addressed as part of the site cleanup, Jacobs said.

The 250,000-gallon Blairs Ferry Road water tank built in 1957 was the smallest in the city, Jacobs said. The tank posed a problem with water circulation because of the geography and was taken out of commission last summer, Jacobs said. The area is now served by a water tower on Glass Road NE.

The city wants to avoid it getting rusted out like the old standpipe on Kirkwood Boulevard SW, which was demolished, Jacobs said.

The “tiny” plot of land could be sold to a surrounding landowner, but plans are fluid, he said.

The water tower is planted at one of the busier intersections in Cedar Rapids at the corner of Blairs Ferry Road and Rockwell Drive in the front yard of 30 Hop, 951 Blairs Ferry Road NE.

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Kiel Schroeder, assistant general manager of 30 Hop, said he would not consider the water tower an eyesore, but its removal could create some opportunities.

“I don’t necessarily know what would be done with the space, but it could afford some opportunities for the area,” Schroeder said.

The booster station at the northwest corner of Wilson Avenue and Sixth Street SW hasn’t been used since the 1980s or 1990s, Jacobs said.

The pumps in the small block building had boosted water pressure in the southwest quadrant in conjunction with a standpipe on 28th Avenue SW, which was demolished in the 1990s. The boosting function now occurs at the northwest water plant.

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

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