Cedar Rapids Wants to Hear From Developers About Large Vacant Site in NewBo District

By Dave Franzman

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa- The city of Cedar Rapids wants developers to come up with a big, bold plan to fill the largest vacant space in the fast-growing NewBo entertainment district.

The 3.5 acre sits at 400 12th Avenue SE next to the NewBo City Market. It’s a one-time industrial brownfield site owned by the city since the late 1990s.

On Friday afternoon, potential developers were given information and requirements for the proposals at a city-hosted meeting. City development officials want to see completed proposals by September 5th and could choose a plan from those submitted in the following weeks.

Scott Olson, a city council member and commercial realtor, said Third Street remains the center of the NewBo district and probably will well into the future. But with the right development plan, this large bit of undeveloped land might steer some of that growth in a new direction along 12th Avenue SE.

And he sees it as an important connection point as well.

“Well, I think what it’s going to do is tie the Oak-Hill Jackson area back to NewBo by filling in the gap. I think that’s very exciting as the two neighborhoods blend together,” Olson said.

Olson said developers can submit any ideas for the whole site. But he and others in the area see the biggest need as a mixture of retail and new “market-rate” housing like condos and apartments.

Olson said 250 housing units are currently under construction in the downtown area. But he still gets at least a call a day from someone who wants to live near where they work downtown.

Jennifer Pruden, executive director of the Czech Village-New Bohemia Main Street District, said he group would also be in favor of a mix of retail space on the ground floor with housing above.

“That would give all sorts of opportunities for people to shop and play and work and live in our district,” she said.

Developers interested in putting together a plan would have to work around some obstacles. That includes an active Union Pacific Railroad line that cuts through one corner of the property. The NewBo City Market also uses a corner of the site for parking now and the developer and market would have to come to some agreement about the use or possibly sharing some parking space.

But NewBo supporters believe the rewards would be worth the effort.

l Comments: (319) 368-8611; dave.franzman@sourcemedia.net

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