City Gives Flood Property Developer Deadline

By Rick Smith, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Don't give up on the prospects for a commercial building in Czech Village or the old A&W Family Restaurant on Ellis Boulevard NW.

Developer Baron Stark stepped in during the summer of 2011 with a plan to rescue the flood-damaged commercial building at 1501/1507 C St. SW in Czech Village and the flood-damaged former A & W Family Restaurant at 1126 and 1132 Ellis Blvd. NW from the wrecking ball.

Both properties are owned by the city of Cedar Rapids as part of its flood-recovery buyout program, and Stark's redevelopment plans for both had been blessed by the City Council and the Iowa Economic Development Authority in a regulatory process that took many months to complete.

However, the city's Community Development Department has informed the City Council's Development Committee that Stark's company, Stark Real Estate Holdings Inc., is now in default of his development agreements with the city on the two properties for two reasons — lack of project funding and the inability to start construction work as specified in the agreements.

The council had authorized the transfer of the Czech Village property on C Street SW on May 22, 2012, and the A&W on Ellis Boulevard NW on Sept. 25, 2012, with the condition that construction on the projects begin by a specific time.

On Oct. 26, 2012, the city informed Stark that he had 30 days to comply with his development agreements with the city, which he has not.

In a report to the council committee, Caleb Mason, redevelopment analyst in the Community Development Department states that neither lending institution involved in the two Stark projects has provided a letter to the city committing funding for the projects. However, the lenders are continuing to work with Stark on the properties, Mason says.

As a result, the Community Development Department is recommending that the council committee and then the full City Council grant Stark a time extension on the two projects.

The recommendation is to give Stark until Jan. 21, 2013, to close on the C Street SW property with construction to start within two weeks of closing. On the A&W property on Ellis Boulevard NW, Stark will have until Feb. 8, 2013, to close on the property with construction to start within two weeks after that.

The council's Development Committee will take up the matter at its meeting on Tuesday afternoon.
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