Government

Green development, historic preservation to get more tax breaks in Cedar Rapids

(FILE PHOTO) The Cedar Rapids City Council chamber at City Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013, in southeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Cedar Rapids. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
(FILE PHOTO) The Cedar Rapids City Council chamber at City Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013, in southeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Cedar Rapids. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Historic properties and “green” buildings will get more public support in the form of tax incentives in Cedar Rapids after a City Council vote on Tuesday.

Historic and green properties will be eligible for a 10-year, 100 percent tax exemption or reimbursement — up from 50 percent — of demonstrated costs. The historic preservation category also expands to include not just renovation work but also helping cover the cost of moving or incorporating a historic property as part of a new development.

The changes were adopted by the City Council on Tuesday as part of the consent agenda, which is reserved for routine or uncontroversial decisions. Cedar Rapids publicizes what types of development are eligible for public incentives.

Historic preservation advocates praised the increased support for historic properties but urged the city to go further.

“Already this year, nearly 20 buildings deemed worthy of saving have been demolished,” said Jay Vavra, vice president of Save CR Heritage. “More needs to be done to reverse the trend.”

Vavra submitted a petition with 500 signatures calling on the city to stop providing public incentives to developers who plan to demolish buildings eligible for the historic registry.

As part of the council vote, tax breaks were also extended to development in the College District, Mount Vernon Road SE corridor and the Northwest Neighborhood. The level of incentives would depend on the type of project. Also, incentives for high quality jobs were narrowed to focus on the city’s identified targeted industry clusters, which are fairly broad.

The city’s tax incentive program has spurred resistance from some who believe it enriches developers on the backs of the public, that it disadvantages competing businesses and that developments would have occurred regardless of receiving incentives. Supporters say the program reduces the risk for developers who would otherwise not invest and, in the long run, the public gains because of increased tax value.

Among other items on the City Council agenda:

• A sanitary sewer line expansion in southwest Cedar Rapids was approved with the hope of supporting a range of development in that part of the city.

The $9.7 million project will replace a 42-inch pipe with a 66-inch line, expanding capacity by 300 percent for the 16-acre coverage area. The work is to take place along Prairie Creek west of Sixth Street SW to J Street SW over 17 months.

The project — the third phase of expanding utilities to the area — is seen as critical to support growth, which includes major industrial centers.

“(It) provides additional capacity for the next 50 to 100 years for the Land and Air Super Park, Big Cedar Mega Park and plenty of other areas for residential and commercial growth,” said Dave Wallace, utility engineering manager.

• Noelridge Park will received a $285,000 investment for a new restroom facility.

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

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