More Demolitions Slated For ‘Kingston’ Area
By Rick Smith, Reporter
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — The Cedar Rapids City Council’s Flood Recovery Committee on Thursday gave the green light to the demolition of four buildings in a commercial area near downtown, and the full council is expected to approve the recommendation.
The four buildings are the former Jiffy Lube building at 116 First Ave. NW, the former Blimpie Subs building next door at 120 First Ave. NW, the former Bail Bonds building at 100 Third Ave. SW and the former Daryl’s Hair Design building at 610 First St. SW.
All four buildings sit in what the Iowa Economic Development Authority has termed a “viable commercial corridor,” allowing redevelopment on newly vacant land in the 100-year flood plain. City Council members have said they want to call the corridor Kingston Village or West Village.
Council member Don Karr, chairman of the Flood Recovery Committee, said he now believes post-demolition lots will become attractive spots for investors and redevelopment.
“In some instances, bare land might be better than a dilapidated building.” Karr said.
Karr said he imagined a new hotel, grocery store, fitness center and even a casino could one day be located in the west-side commercial area across from downtown.
The IEDA has also given the go-ahead to construction on newly vacant lots in three other flood-hit commercial corridors: New Bohemia, Czech Village and Ellis Boulevard NW.
Joe O’Hern, the city’s flood recovery and reinvestment director, on Thursday told the council committee that four buildings in a “very dilapidated state” in New Bohemia could be demolished out of a concern for public safety. The buildings, which local preservationists have said they want to save, are at 1207 Second St. SE, 1301 Third St. SE, 213 13th Ave. SE and 131 14th Ave. SE.
“Time is passing,” O’Hern told the council committee. “We have to do something in the very near future.”
The city’s Community Development Department, he said, has sent out letters to those who have expressed an interest in the four buildings in the past to see if they still have an interest in them and have the financial ability to redevelop them.
“But in the meantime, we have to be mindful of the condition of these buildings,” O’Hern said. He said the city is looking for chances to save buildings, but those who express an interest need to have the financial wherewithal to accomplish the job.
“If we are not working with potential buyers, we will want to be moving to demolish these properties this year,” O’Hern said after the meeting.
Council member Justin Shields said buildings in an “unsafe condition” will need to come down.
Beth DeBoom, president of Save Cedar Rapids Heritage, said her group has worked hard in the last three weeks — including sponsoring a public walking tour of historic buildings last Saturday — to identify interest in the four New Bohemia properties at risk of demolition. The group meets with city officials next week.
“One is too many,” DeBoom said of the preservation group’s interest in not losing any of the four at-risk properties.
Dale Todd, president of the Southside Investment Board in New Bohemia, said some empty, flood-damaged properties in the neighborhood may need to come down if they have structural issues, are not “significant historical structures” and no one has a “solid business plan” to redevelop them. The city is going into its fifth post-flood winter, he noted.
“Some make sense to save. Some make no sense to save,” Todd said.
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