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Business Booms in Downtown District After 2008 Flood

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - It's a business boom in downtown Cedar Rapids, as more places open up shop. 37 new businesses opened in downtown Cedar Rapids since the 2008 flood.

New bars and eateries say city incentives and an optimistic attitude will make downtown better than ever.

"They want to see other businesses exceed because they understand what it takes to have a strong downtown," said Cedar Rapids Downtown District's Quinn Pettifer.

Part of that enthusiasm to open-up downtown is in part because of funding deals like tax incentives and free rent. Others say nothing, not even a natural disaster, will stop them from keeping a tradition alive.

It's a downtown area previously drowning, fighting back to get its head above water. A 30 year tradition for Gringos Mexican Restaurant meets a three week tradition at La Cantina Bar & Grill.

Gringos had to close for six months after the flood, but came back to an uncertain future.

"It's been a little more random after the flood. We'll have really good days and then we'll be slow," said Fritz.

And with the opening of La Cantina, that puts the city at 653 businesses. That's 81 percent business capacity of what it was before the flood downtown.

"You can be part of this very unique part of our community and it's a wonderful time to be here," said Pettifer.

City programs gave La Cantina six months' rent for opening in the flood zone.

"We thought it was the perfect time to open something to get something back," said La Cantina Bar & Grill's Jessica Barrios.

Nearly 40 restaurants join La Cantina in making downtown their new home. The challenge now is keeping the doors from closing.

"Hopefully they'll be enough business downtown to sustain more restaurant growth and more business growth," said Fritz.

The lunch crowd pays the bills. But the new convention center and other attractions could help the district continue to progress.

"People may not come here as their destinations, but when they're coming down for other activities it'll bring them down here," said Barrios.

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