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Cedar Rapids considers turning abandoned building in Wellington Heights into community resource center

Published: Jul. 14, 2021 at 4:40 AM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Some people who live in the Wellington Heights neighborhood in Cedar Rapids have concerns about potential city plans to renovate an abandoned building on the southeast side.

The plans would turn the old Colonial Centre into a Community Resource Center. The building on 2nd Avenue and 15th Street southeast has sat empty for years.

Now, the city of Cedar Rapids is looking into a project that would use federal COVID-19 relief grants that total $2.6 million to buy and revamp the building. It would also include an emergency shelter for part of the year. Community Development Director Jennifer Pratt says one of those grants is conditional on including the shelter.

For the entire year, the building would operate as a resource center. Possible additions discussed at the meeting include computers and internet services, affordable housing, or a community kitchen.

At Tuesday night’s Wellington Heights Neighborhood Association meeting, city staff talked with residents about the project. Some people who live there asked questions and expressed concerns about the emergency shelter, which would be open for part of the year.

“My kids ask to walk to the store, you know, I don’t want to have to worry about sending them anywhere,” said Jorel Robinson, a member of the Wellington Heights Neighborhood Association board. “I think we’re in the only side of town that actually has any shelters. So, we’re just at a point where we feel there should be more consideration for what happens with that building.”

The city said there are reasons it’s looking at the building on 2nd Avenue. Pratt said it’s close to bus routes, which would help make transportation easy, and is also on the line between the commercial and residential areas.

“We understand this is their neighborhood,” Pratt said. “So what are those immediate concerns, so we can start looking at are there ways to mitigate those issues, is there a way to have a high performing facility that is a positive for stabilizing the neighborhood.”

The city hasn’t purchased the building yet, and it is still asking for feedback as staff continue to look into this project.

There is a public hearing concerning the rezoning of the property scheduled during a City Planning Commission meeting this Thursday at 3 p.m.

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