Cedar Rapids City Council Approves Tax Break to Develop Downtown Building

By Rick Smith, Reporter


By Kayleigh Milas

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Renovation of the empty former Great Furniture Mart at 600 and 616 First St. SE has taken a step ahead after the City Council this week unanimously approved a developer’s request for a 10-year property-tax break on the property.

In the agreement with the city approved by the council, developer Joe Ahmann says he will invest $5.3 million in the renovation of the shell of the building with an expected additional $2.7 million to be spent on tenant improvements to the building’s interior.

Ahmann plans to use the top two stories of the four-story building for market-rate residential condominiums and the lower two floors for commercial and office space with the basement to be used as parking.

Doug Neumann, executive vice president at the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, thanked the City Council this week for providing incentives to help bring the Great Furniture Mart building back to life.
Neumann noted that the building had been vacant for a couple years before the June 2008 flood, and he said the line has been long of people pushing to demolish the century-old building. Keeping it adds commercial space and much-desired residential units in the core of the downtown, he said.

Last month, Ahmann made the case for city incentives for the project by pointing out that the brick warehouse building was a "blighted" property that has sat empty and flood-damaged while the area around it, including the new federal courthouse and True North Companies transformation of the city’s former library, is flourishing.

"This is the last piece of the puzzle that we’d like to get put back in place," Ahmann told the council then.

"This is not an easy project," he added. "If it were, something would have been done."

In his agreement with the city, Ahmann has said he will complete work on the shell of the building by Dec. 31, 2014, with tenant improvements inside the building to follow.

In return, Ahmann will receive 100 percent reimbursement for 10 years on the property tax he pays on the value of the improvements. The tax break is worth $1.33 million over the 10 years. He will pay property taxes on the existing value of the building during that period.

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