Public-Funded Projects Keep Contractors Busy In Economic Slump

By George C. Ford, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Publicly funded construction projects in the Corridor are expected to keep contractors busy this year as other parts of Iowa and nation continue to struggle in a sputtering economy.

At the northern end of the Corridor, Ryan Construction expects to complete the new $160 million U.S. Federal Courthouse at Eighth Avenue and First Street SE in time for occupancy in November. Construction also continues on the $9 million conversion of the former federal courthouse at 101 First St. SE into the new Cedar Rapids City Hall.

Knutson Construction in Iowa City expects to wrap up work on the new $44.5 million Cedar Rapids Community School District Administrative and Support Services Center at Edgewood Road and Ellis Boulevard NW before the school year ends in June. District staff have been housed in a complex of trailers adjacent to Kingston Stadium and school buses have been stored in leased space on the northern perimeter of Westdale Mall.

Knutson also is the general contractor for the new $49 million Cedar Rapids Public Library at 421 Fourth Ave. SE. Work on the 94,000-square-foot facility began in early December when True North Companies relocated and occupancy is scheduled for June 2013.

Scott Sylvester, Knutson director of business development, said flood-related publicly-funded building projects have kept contractors and building trade members working during what would have been a bleak period.

"It's unfortunate that the June 2008 flood caused so much damage in the Corridor, but flood replacement projects have created work during what would have been a very slow period due to the slow economy," Sylvester said. "We will likely see flood-related building projects at the University of Iowa start just about the time that many Cedar Rapids construction projects are wrapping up."

Knutson also is the general contractor for the new $49 million Cedar Rapids Public Library at 421 Fourth Ave. SE. Construction began in early December on the 94,000-square-foot facility, which is slated to open in June 2013.

Construction activity will move into high gear this year on the new $75.6 million Cedar Rapids Convention Complex between A and First avenues NE. Miron Construction is working toward an early 2013 opening for the convention center, while the renovated former U.S. Cellular Center arena and adjacent city-owned DoubleTree Hotel by Hilton should open in the fall of this year.

The $14.8 million remodeling and expansion of the former Linn County Administrative Office Building at 930 First St. SW into the Jean Oxley Public Service Center is moving on schedule toward completion. The building will house offices for the supervisors, recorder and treasurer, which have been located in leased space at Westdale Mall since the June 2008 flood.

If all goes according to plan, a remodeled and expanded Paramount Theater will be ready for holiday season entertainment this year. The city-owned facility at 123 Third Ave. SE will have undergone $17.98 million of repairs and enhancements.

While the majority of the University of Iowa flood-related building projects are not scheduled to start until next year, construction activity will remain fairly robust at the southern end of Corridor.

Knutson Construction is the general contractor for the $23 million UI West Transportation Center on Evashevski Drive near Kinnick Stadium. Sylvester said the project, which will include a new Cambus interchange serving 4,000 passengers daily, must be completed on schedule to handle increased west campus traffic that will come with construction of the new $271 million Children's Hospital Tower by UI Hospitals and Clinics.

Iowa River Landing in Coralville will continue to be a beehive of construction activity this year. Scheduled for completion later this year are a 96-room Homewood Suites by Hilton, a $72 million University of Iowa Hospital and Clinic's Outpatient Clinic and the $5.3 million Backpocket Brewing microbrewery.

Ground likely will be broken this year for an 85,000-square-foot Von Maur store that will anchor the Iowa River Landing District. Coralville will give Von Maur nearly $9.5 million for construction costs and sell the land to Oliver McMillan, the California firm helping the city develop the site, which will sell it to Von Maur for $10.

Iowa City also is scheduled to start several construction projects this year, including a new $4.2 million levee on the west side of the Iowa River between McCollister Boulevard and the CRANDIC railroad tracks. The city also plans to expand its south wastewater treatment plant at a cost of $47.9 million and eventually shut down its north treatment facility.

North Liberty took bids last month for construction of a new $2.8 million street maintenance facility on S. Front Street north and east of S. Calvin Street. The building, scheduled for completion this fall, will alleviate an immediate need for more work and storage space for the North Liberty Street Department.
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