CEDAR RAPIDS — After a state board has twice denied Cedar Rapids a license to open a casino, what will become of 8 acres of city-owned land that once was envision as a gambling and entertainment complex?
Cedar Rapids officials are again raising the question about the downtown land along First Street and First Avenue W. A community open house is scheduled for 4:30 to 6 p.m. Nov. 12 at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, followed by a City Council resolution on Nov. 19 to seek applications with a 60 to 90 day deadline.
Earlier this month, The Gazette posed the question: What would you like to see there?
Over 430 commented on Facebook, with more suggestions coming in by phone, email and other social media platforms.
Here are some of the most common themes you told us:
Still a casino
Some are holding out hope that despite the setbacks, the land will someday still hold a casino. The state rejected a bid for the gambling license in 2017, making for two rejections in four years, noting the market is saturated. The city has not ruled out seeking a casino somewhere else in the city, but decided the downtown land is too valuable to sit idle for something that may never occur.
Debbie Horak: “Hold out until they allow a casino to be built there. Big bucks for the city & it’s the best location for advertising along the interstate.”
Bear Klaaren: “Did the Native Indians ever have a camp along the river? Sell it back to them for a buck with the stipulation a casino would be built.”
Jade Ryan: “Well as the name states it ... a casino. (Smiley face emoji). That’s what we want, Cedar Rapids.”
Cedar Rapidians have been enamored with the idea of a water park on the land since a rival casino operator who opposed a Cedar Rapids casino floated the idea he would build one if voters rejected a referendum to allow Linn County to have a gambling license. Voters, though, supported the referendum.
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Mohamad Ajram: “Sooner or later cr needs a huge water park and a large outlet center like in Altoona.”
Jo Moore: “A Water park would be a welcome attraction for Cedar Rapids. It is time to have something in town to attract FAMILIES!!!”
Julie Kimm: “A water park hotel”
This is more in line with what city officials have been looking for. A first attempt to develop the land fell flat when the lone applicant proposed a mixed-use, high-end housing complex. City officials said they were looking for an entertainment or destination use to be in the focus of the development, not an afterthought.
Several people recalled fondly the old Chapman’s Recreation Center, a southwest quadrant attraction with a driving range, waterslides, rides and more that closed in 2001.
Kathy A. Phelps Varney: “Indoor family fun center with pool and roller skating, food, etc.”
Lynn DeNeve: “Entertainment district. Like a small version of what’s in Kansas City, Louisville and St. Louis.”
Kathy Holscher: “Look at the park in Owensboro, Kentucky. It’s awesome for families. They did an awesome job renovating their river front.”
Several people advocated leaving the land as is, or turn it into some sort of park.
Josh Kissling: “Why are people obsessed with putting things in? Just let it be an open space.”
Nikki Dietze: “community gardens. dog park. open green space.”
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Janay Carson: “Dog park. All of the others are outside of town and it would be nice to have one in town. Could add a regular park area as well.”
Wayne White: “How about an affordable housing complex for seniors and disabled?”
Vivian Masters: “Homes for homeless veterans and others. Small, affordable, on site health center, psych staff, and whatever help they need.”
Diana Stromer: “How about a tiny housing community for the homeless? That is a big issue and is becoming bigger! Have on site laundry and counseling. Would be a big improvement for the city!”
A smattering of other ideas emerged: a sculpture garden, a tall observatory like Seattle’s Space Needle, a world-class night club, a dinner theater, a free parking lot, a Dave and Busters, an outlet mall, a career training center, a museum, a children’s discovery center, a community orchard or farm or a community center.
Several people contacted The Gazette after news that Kirkwood Community College dropped plans for its campus to be the new home for Old Creamery Theatre, a not-for-profit professional theater founded in Garrison in 1971 and based in Amana since 1988.
Don Primus said, “How about the theatre on the casino land? Nice asset to downtown.”
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