School Board Moves Forward On Monroe Sale, Lincoln Demolition
By Meryn Fluker, Reporter
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - The Affordable Housing Network, Inc. is one step closer to enacting a plan to house 43 families on the property of Monroe Elementary School. At a regular meeting on Monday, the Cedar Rapids Community School District’s school board approved a resolution to move forward and sell the building and 7.69 acres it sits on, located at 3200 Pioneer Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids, to the nonprofit for the $9 million Monroe Villas development.
The board voted 5-1 on the measure – Vice President Allen Witt abstained because he is secretary and treasurer for Hall & Hall Engineers, Inc., one of the Affordable Housing Network’s partners in the project – with Board Member Nancy Humbles voicing the lone “nay.”
“I listened to the people and the concerns that they have,” Humbles said of her decision.
Seven community members spoke during the meeting and the evening’s public hearing about the Monroe action, all of them in opposition to the proposed $250,000 sale. The most frequently cited issues residents had with the plan – which would create 43 three- and four-bedroom lofts, apartments and homes for $625 or $700 monthly rental rates – centered on increased traffic, housing density, potential disruption of the nearby wooded area, the types of residents who would occupy the spaces and the potential impact affordable housing would have on the neighborhood’s property values.
“I’m very disappointed. I was really hoping (the school board) would see that there are other potential uses for the land that could benefit Cedar Rapids,” said Therese Hockey, who lives on Oak Ridge Lane near Monroe and spoke during Monday’s hearing. “I personally think the Affordable Housing Network is a great organization … I just don’t think the Monroe area is appropriate for their use.”
Hockey is part of a group called the Monroe Neighborhood Pride Committee, which sent the board a petition with 284 signatures from Cedar Rapids residents – not all of whom live in the Monroe area – opposing the rezoning of the neighborhood to accommodate the Monroe Villas project.
The sale of Monroe is not final, and is contingent on the Affordable Housing Network obtaining grant funding from the Iowa Finance Authority, as well as the Cedar Rapids City Council approving the rezoning. The Affordable Housing Network is set to find out whether it receives the grant funding in March 2014 and the proposed closing date is June 1, 2014. In the meantime, the agreement states that the nonprofit will be responsible for the cost of maintaining the building and property until that date.
Lincoln’s last days?
Board members also gave the green light to administrators so that they can begin exploring demolishing Lincoln Elementary School, located at 912 18th Ave. SW, Cedar Rapids. Two people spoke at the public hearing for that project, which includes 1.93 acres of land, in support of maintaining the 100-year-old structure.
This isn’t the last gasp for the building. The board will have to approve bids for the demolition before any action takes place, a process President Mary Meisterling estimated could take until spring 2014. Until then, administrators are open to selling to someone who wants the structure.
“It is my fervent hope that somebody will come forward with an appropriate interest and that the publicity of this issue will help spur this interest and help it move forward,” said Superintendent Dave Benson. “That said, this property costs money to maintain even at a minimal level … We’re in the classroom teacher cost arena for keeping that facility and we need all of those resources dedicated to current educational needs.”
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