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Cedar Rapids School Board Sets Monroe and Lincoln Hearings

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - At Monday's regular meeting, the school board approved holding public hearings on Monday, Oct. 14 in order to hear comments about proposals to sell Monroe Elementary School, located at 3200 Pioneer Ave. SE in Cedar Rapids, to the Affordable Housing Network, Inc. and explore demolishing Lincoln Elementary School, 912 18th Ave. SW, Cedar Rapids.

"We have diligently sought a buyer for that facility," said Superintendent Dave Benson about Lincoln. "No buyer has come forth."

Board members John Laverty and Ann Rosenthal were not present and thus did not vote on either action. Allen Witt, secretary and treasurer for land development firm Hall & Hall Engineers, Inc., abstained from the Monroe action.

The sale of Monroe to the Affordable Housing Network, Inc., a Cedar Rapids-based nonprofit, is contingent on it receiving a grant from the Iowa Finance Authority. The organization's plan includes partnering with Hall & Hall Engineers, Inc., Novak Design Group, Olmstead Construction, OPN Architects Inc. and Skogman Homes to build 43 single-family apartments, lofts and homes on the 7.69-acre property which would be known as Monroe Villas. Joe Lock, executive director of the Affordable Housing Network, Inc., predicted that the project would cost between $7.5 million and $8.5 million with residents able to move in by late 2015 or early 2016.

Following the Oct. 14 public hearings, the board will vote during that evening's regular meeting on whether or not to approve the $250,000 Monroe sale as well as declaring intent to raze Lincoln and giving administrators authority to begin seeking bids for that work.

There was little talk from the board members during the actions.

"We'll have discussion when they come up on the 14th," said Board Member Gary Anhalt, after clarifying that Monday evening's approvals were just to schedule the subsequent public hearings and votes.

Any formal plan to demolish the Lincoln structure, for which the district has struggled to find interested buyers, would require a separate vote of approval from the board before any action could take place.

"We're taking the most conservative view of the legal requirements in doing this," Benson said of that decision. "We want the public to have the opportunity to speak."

The superintendent said administrators still do not have any idea of a timeline or estimated cost for tearing down Lincoln.

"Nothing is going forward until we get board approval," he said.

Benson has suggested in the past that the 1.93 acre Lincoln property may attract more interest from potential buyers once the structure has been removed. He also acknowledged that the future of that space is uncertain.

"If the community says we can't go forward and we need to find an alternative, and the board agrees, then we'll look for an alternative," he said. "I can't just let it sit there."

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