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CRST Building Latest Plans For Cedar Rapids Skyline

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — For a company that has made a deep imprint in Cedar Rapids for decades, CRST International will shift to a more visible downtown presence by 2016.

“We achieved the impossible, so to speak,” said John Smith, Chairman of the Board of CRST International, Inc.

Smith and several others spent their Wednesday afternoon with the ceremonial shovels to mark the groundbreaking of an 11-story, office tower. Along with eight floors of “Class A” office space, three floors of parking garage to hold approximately 240 vehicles and retail space on the ground floor will be contained within this new facility.

“We’re hoping this will bring more private investment,” said Smith. “The last ‘Class A’ building was in the late 1990s. We need a vibrant downtown so we’re hoping that people see someone like us will come downtown and that will start more investment.”

With an anticipated completion of March 2016, the new office tower will sit right on the eastern edge of the Cedar River, on First Street between Second Avenue SE and Third Avenue SE.

Mark Gullickson, president and CEO of Ryan Companies US, the construction firm overseeing the project, admitted the location comes with plenty of work under the surface.

“We’re next to a river,” said Gullickson. “Groundwater issues. Foundation issues. Flood wall we have to build. We have to build an office on top of a parking structure and we’re doing all of this in an urban area.”

Bankers Trust employs about 40 workers at the downtown location. The bank will move to the top two floors of the new CRST building, with room for retail banking, including a drive-up, on the ground floor.

“It was one of the most enticing parts of it was to get branding on top of a Class A building right downtown, on the S-curve and we’re thrilled about the visibility of this,” said Patrick Deignan, president at Bankers Trust Company.

Smith said the idea for the downtown facility actually came from the company’s need to expand its current headquarters on 16th Avenue SW, west of Edgewood Road. The initial ideas moved to looking at downtown to increase visibility and also leave a stronger footprint in a city where it employs hundreds.

“We could have added what we needed (on 16th Avenue SW) that but let’s look at a new facility to build and then we said, ‘why aren’t we looking downtown?’,” said Smith. “There’s a need but it could be an exciting opportunity for us. It was complicated but we did it.”

Behind the CRST building sits the 21-story Alliant Energy tower, a 285-foot tall building that will still have about 112 feet of clearance over the CRST facility, according to Gullickson.

The CRST site was previously home to the First Street Parkade. Crews demolished the parking in 2011, three years after the Flood of 2008 left behind substantial damage. Gullickson said the new CRST building will be outlined with an 11-foot flood wall to protect the parking garage underneath the office space.

The city is providing property-tax incentives for the CRST project. Second and Third Avenues SE in the downtown core will be converted from one-way to two-way streets, offering enhanced access to the new building.

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