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City, Developers Move Forward with Plans for Kingston Village

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - The city council wants to find developers for five city-owned lots that are in the city's 100-year flood plain.

In June, the council named the area across the Cedar River from downtown "Kingston Village". That area runs from the river between Second and Eighth Avenues to Sixth Street southwest .

City leaders said the area on the west side of the river used to be a city of its own, called Kingston, until it was annexed into the city in the late 1800s.

Since the flood, however, it's been pretty empty. Now the city and some private developers are looking to change that.

It's hard for Clint Twedt-Ball not to get excited. His organization, Mathew 25, is one of the first to officially buy a city-owned building in the heart of the newly-designated Kingston Village.

"I'm still trying to figure out where the lights are," said Twedt-Ball as he looked around the building.

It's right in the 200 block of 3rd Avenue SW. The non-profit will hold youth programming there and continue working to revitalize flood-impacted neighborhoods.

"The building that we were in was destroyed by the flood, so this building is kind of like coming home for us," Twedt-Ball said.

The city is working on agreements with others on three nearby 3rd Avenue buildings. Down the street, a separate developer is fixing up the old bank and condominiums are going up next door. Tuesday night the council also took the next step to figure out what to do with five empty plots of land, nearby.

"We know there's interest from people on putting housing in that area, and this action on the part of the council really just starts that disposition process," said Joe O'Hern, Executive Administrator for Development Services for the City of Cedar Rapids.

The city said many of the properties in Kingston Village were acquired through the voluntary acquisition program after the flood. Now the city wants them back under private ownership.

"The money goes back to the federal government because we purchased those properties with federal funds," O'Hern said.

The city said in about a year, the area will look very different with everything from shops to restaurants and housing units filling the once-empty neighborhood. For Matthew 25, however, the move-in date will be much sooner.

"Our goal is to be moved in here by the end of November," Twedt-Ball said.

The city said it can develop the area in the flood plain because of a designation from the Iowa Economic Development Authority as a 'viable business corridor'. Matthew 25 said it signed an agreement recognizing it would not receive any federal FEMA funding, if the area floods again. They do, however, have flood insurance.

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