Cedar Rapids Flood Demolition Moving From Homes to Large Structures

By Chris Earl, Reporter

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By Jay Knoll

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – For those who drive through the flood-affected sections of Cedar Rapids, the cleared-out lots that once held residential homes are commonplace.

Entire blocks may be down to a single home or no dwellings at all.

Yet, for many of the blocks in the Time Check or Czech Village neighborhoods, businesses and churches that have not been occupied since the Flood of 2008 remain. Just maybe not past this summer.

“It will be an active summer of demolition,” said Joe O’Hern, the city’s flood recovery and reinvestment director. “We’ve just gotten over about 1,000 residential structures that we’ve demolished and we are just getting a good start on the commercial side.”

The old Salem United Methodist Church still sits along 2nd Avenue SW, near Interstate 380. Since church leaders de-commissioned the building and moved to Cedar Rapids’ southwest side in September 2010, the large complex of buildings has taken on more dust and debris with each passing season.

On Thursday afternoon, we checked out five different church properties throughout the flooded areas:

- The former Salem UMC: 2nd Avenue SW.

- Lifeline, 800 G Avenue NW

- New Song Church, 1300 6th Street NW

- Jesus Church, 726 L Avenue NW

- New Life Church, 1326 K Street SW

O’Hern said that New Song and New Life could be the first to face demolition, as soon as next month. He said Salem and Jesus Church could be “on contract” until August.

As the damaged houses were among the first structures to come down, the process of making sure larger structures, such as businesses and these churches, are safe to demolish will take more time.

“It’s a very lengthy and complicated process,” said O’Hern. “You don’t want to start the abatement before the testing and, certainly, don’t want to do the demolition before you know what was in there.”

O’Hern also noted that, with a summer full of events in Cedar Rapids, the city is aware of trying to work the demolitions to have minimal effects on traffic and days with events, just as when RAGBRAI rolls through in late July.

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