Crews Make Progress on Veterans Memorial Building

By Jill Kasparie, Reporter

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By Jill Kasparie

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Just behind the doors of the Veterans Memorial Building, crews are making progress on restoring it.

In 2008, record floodwaters filled the downtown building. Work continues to rebuild the landmark, hoping to make it new again not just for veterans but for the whole community.

"This had to be completely replaced,” said Veterans Memorial Commission Executive Director Mike Jager.

Walking through the Veterans Memorial Building, it’s easy to see which rooms are taking shape. The final phase of the project is just about to begin, but project leaders said it hasn't been an easy task to fix up the flood-damaged building and restore it.

"Getting the mechanical systems up to date, electrical systems up to date, it's a very large task and it's made difficult, bringing the code up to date. So, all of the factors, [along] with the restoration adds to the complications,” said Project Architect Christopher Wolf.

The project's finish date was originally 2012. That has come and gone. Jager said the holdup came from FEMA.

"The fact that it took them nearly three and a half years to approve the paperwork and release the project, I had to have a start date before I could have an end date,” Jager said.

With timelines and deadlines, there's a lot of pressure to get the building finished. Crews still have a lot of work to do, but project coordinators said they wanted to make sure they got everything just right because many know the building as much more than just the old city hall.

"I've talked to troops that have actually left for WWII from this space,” Jager said as he pointed out the old armory portion of the building.

People also used to watch circuses and even an ice skating show inside the coliseum.

"I'm not sure how they put a sheet of ice on that floor,” Jager said.

By the end of 2013, the building will have a new auditorium, dining hall, ballroom and museum space. Project leaders want it to be a place for veterans and the community to create new memories.

State and federal dollars are paying for the $18.5 million project. Once open, The Veterans Memorial Commission will use property tax dollars for building maintenance and up-keep.

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