Country Club Heights homes at risk with Cedar Rapids Country Club’s development plans
Note: The Cedar Rapids City Council will consider the Cedar Rapids Country Club’s rezoning request and request to vacate a portion of Fairway Terrace SE at noon Tuesday, May 10, in the Council Chambers, third floor of City Hall, 101 First St. SE. Residents can register to speak before the meeting begins.
Neighbors and preservation advocates are concerned about the Cedar Rapids Country Club’s plans to remove multiple homes in southeast Cedar Rapids to build an indoor tennis facility and expand the club’s parking lot.
The Country Club has requested the property, at 27th Street Drive SE, be rezoned from S-RLL (Suburban Residential Large Lot) and S-RL1 (Suburban Residential Low Single Unit) to P-IN (Public Institutional.) The total area is more than 184 acres and also includes a driving range reconfiguration.
It also is requesting the city vacate a portion of Fairway Terrace SE, a street adjacent to the Country Club, where the homes are currently located.
“The area is historic on so many levels,” TL Thousand, who lives in the neighborhood, told the Cedar Rapids Historic Preservation Commission. “Every time the club makes a presentation, the plan keeps getting more and more monstrous and offensive and what we feel as neighbors as an assault on our neighborhood. It will never be the same.”
Thousand said the tennis facility will loom 37 feet high in what renderings show “looks like a strip mall auto garage. It will just be the beginning of the end for this very unique neighborhood.”
She said during one of its presentations to the City Planning Commission, the Country Club had increased the scope of the project, making the tennis facility about four stories high, “dwarfing the homes surrounding it.”
Not only would the facility have four indoor tennis courts, but an elevated running track and exercise facility within it, as well, Thousand said.
“The club further stated it would be seeking to secure tennis tournaments to bring in 10,000-plus crowds,” she said, adding that club leaders suggested residents would benefit by charging visitors to park on their lawns.
According to information presented to the Historic Preservation Commission, Country Club Heights was platted around 1925, with lots being offered for sale by the Hedges Company.
The area was laid out with a curvilinear street pattern to follow the topography, and promoted the proximity and views of the Country Club in advertisements. The original clubhouse, built in 1904, burned in 1927, after which the brick clubhouse was built the following year.
Country Club Heights has connections to the Sinclair Family, who originally owned some of the property and hold a prominent place in the development of Cedar Rapids, with connections to both the Sinclair meatpacking plant, which attracted immigrants to the city, and the historic Brucemore estate.
The Historic Preservation Commission previously deemed Country Club Heights as a priority for an intensive survey to determine its eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places, indicating the area’s unique and historic significance.
Vacating the street would remove a portion of the historic plat and could eliminate the area from consideration as a future historic district, the commission noted.
In addition to the survey, which has not yet been conducted, at its last meeting in April, the commission voted unanimously to raise the following concerns when the project is presented to the Cedar Rapids City Council:
– The proposed project does not appear to be visually compatible with the architectural styling of the surrounding neighborhood.
– The proposed project would impact historic viewsheds noted in the development of the area.
– The commission lacks adequate data on the historic resources to assess and definitively state the impact of the project and requests time to allow further investigation of the impacted resources.
Another neighbor told the commission that the homes to be removed, purchased by the Country Club in recent years, have tenants residing there, so they are not derecho-damaged, as has been claimed.
Five of the seven homes were purchased by the Country Club between 2002 and 2021 for between $152,500 and $300,000 each, according to the Cedar Rapids Assessor’s Office. Two homes owned by the Country Club, at 339 and 345 27th Street Drive SE, have already been demolished and two on Fairway Terrace remain privately owned. All of the homes date to the late 1930s to 1940.
Save CR Heritage interviewed owners of two of the homes when the issue previously arose nine years ago, who said they would not sell to the Country Club. Both of those homeowners have since died and the Country Club purchased their homes.
Thousand asked for residents concerned about the neighborhood to sign a petition she is circulating (see below) to present to the Cedar Rapids City Council at its meeting at noon Tuesday, May 10, and to speak at the meeting or to contact their City Council members and mayor prior to Tuesday. “We’re asking anyone who can attend to sign up to speak and simply say ‘I oppose the rezoning of the residential lots and the vacating of Fairway Terrace SE,'” she said. Thousand can be reached by email at: LuJoslin1979@gmail.com