CEDAR RAPIDS — Loving history continues to cost less than saving it.
On Monday, the Linn County Board of Supervisors voted to terminate its development agreement with Hobart Historic Restoration of Cedar Rapids, an agreement that called for the firm to buy the county-owned, 115-year-old Mott Building, 42 Seventh Ave. SW, for $500,000 and convert it into apartments with its first-floor converted to commercial or office use.
The supervisors’ move follows a decision by the board last week not to extend the agreement’s timeline a second time for closing on the sale.
Hobart has 30 days to “cure” the problem before the development agreement is ended, Gary Jarvis, assistant Linn County attorney, said Monday.
And Monday afternoon, B.J. Hobart, an owner of Hobart Historic Restoration, said the firm remains “very optimistic” it can get the restoration project’s financing in order and close on the sale within 30 days.
“We’ve put so much effort, energy and resources into this project — not to mention what the restoration effort means for the community. So we’re not about to let it go without fighting as hard as we can for it,” Hobart said.
She said an appraisal of the property’s value came in lower than expected, which has made it more difficult to pull together financing.
Keeping the Mott Building from the wrecking ball and turning it into a moneymaking renovation project has been seen as the easier of two projects, the other being the renovation of the city-owned Knutson Building next to the Mott across the Cedar River from downtown Cedar Rapids.
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The Knutson, which is older and in poorer shape than the Mott and in the way of the city’s proposed flood control system, is waiting a new structural engineering study by the city to see if it’s worth saving.
With the Mott project, Darrin Gage, the county’s director of policy and administration, said on Monday the supervisors picked Hobart Historic Restoration in December 2014 over three other firms competing to redevelop the three-story, brick building. Hobart was picked, in part, because it offered the highest purchase price, $500,000, and because of its track record of redeveloping historic buildings, including in Dubuque, Gage said.
After Monday’s board vote, Supervisor Ben Rogers said the board had questions about Hobart’s ability to put together its financing package.
Gage said the county will see if Hobart can close on the sale in 30 days, and if it doesn’t, the county either will seek a new round of redevelopment proposal or will contact the three other firms that submitted redevelopment proposals for the Mott last December.
Scott Olson, Cedar Rapids City Council member and a commercial Realtor, was among the group of investors behind the proposal from Iowa Windmill and Pump Co., which was the original business that occupied what is now known as the Mott Building. Olson on Monday said his investment group remains interested in the project should the Hobart proposal not move ahead.
“I love the building,” Olson said. “It’s in beautiful condition, the city’s flood wall will sit in front of it and it’s right next to a park (Brett Sunner Park and the McGrath Amphitheatre).”
Linn County’s Gage said all four proposal were similar in that they planned for market-rate apartments and some commercial/office space in the Mott.