Physicians' Clinic of Iowa to Formally Ask City to Vacate Second Ave.

By Rick Smith

CEDAR RAPIDS - Physicians' Clinic of Iowa will submit a formal letter to City Hall next week to ask the City Council to vacate Second Avenue SE between 10th and 12th streets SE, PCI's chief executive officer Mike Sundall said on Wednesday.

The physicians group plans to build a $36 million medical "mall" and an $8 million parking ramp along 10th Street SE, and Sundall said that closing the stretch of Second Avenue SE will allow the group to build a bigger building to allow for future growth and for better patient access.

However, Sundall said it would not be deal breaker if the city declined to close the street for the project.

"I wouldn't go as far as saying that," Sundall said. "Because we really think that it's important for PCI to be part of the Medical District. Our doctors are very excited about being part of redevelopment of the Cedar Rapids downtown area. Maybe there's an option out there on that Second, Third, Fourth Avenue site we haven't (thought) of yet.

"At some point in time you're either going to be able to find a suitable option (in the Medical District near downtown), or we'll have to look at other options (elsewhere). But I don't see it as a deal-killer at this point."

The City Council sees the PCI project as a linchpin for the city's newly created Medical District between the two hospitals. Two weeks ago, the council signaled its support for PCI's request to close the two-block segment of busy Second Avenue SE.

Some council members, though, have had second thoughts as residents have voiced their objections to the avenue-closure idea. Council member Monica Vernon is one of those.

Vernon now says she's not "unequivocally opposed" to closing Second Avenue SE, but she says her comments at the council meeting two weeks ago were "more positive than they probably should have been."

In recent days, Vernon and council member Tom Podzimek have pointed to a comment by council member Kris Gulick, who noted two weeks ago that respected city consultant JLG Architects of Grand Forks, N.D., has cautioned against closing streets. They want to know more about costs and traffic ramifications of closing the street.

Construction on the PCI project has been slated to begin in 2011.
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