UPDATE: The Cedar Rapids Historic Preservation Commission voted unanimously on Nov. 12, 2015, to recommend having the Knutson Building stabilized, for an estimated cost of $167,500. Community Development Director Jennifer Pratt said both that option, and demolition, will be presented to the Cedar Rapids City Council at its next meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 17, at 4 p.m. in City Council Chambers, 101 First St. SE. Anyone wishing to comment can sign in to speak at the meeting.
By Cindy Hadish/Save CR Heritage
CEDAR RAPIDS – A new report shows the Knutson Building, which the city was poised to have demolished earlier this year, could be saved if the proper measures are taken, and also reveals at least one surprise.
The city’s Historic Preservation Commission will recommend the next steps on the fate of the building during its meeting on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015, in the Training Room in the lower level of City Hall, 101 First St. SE.
Anyone wishing to speak about the building must do so at the beginning of the meeting, at 4:30 p.m.
One of the oldest commercial structures on the west side of Cedar Rapids, the Knutson Building, 525 Valor Way SW, was constructed in 1887.
The firm hired to examine the building noted that the exterior masonry walls appear structurally sound, which may come as a surprise to those who have called for its demolition.
The city’s new Historic Preservation Plan, adopted in September and the first of its kind for Cedar Rapids, notes that just 12 percent of the city’s building stock still exists that was constructed between 1840 and 1910.
“Due to the low number of these properties that remain, they are unique and warrant attention,” the plan notes. “Furthermore, while the costs associated with losing a historic resource are hard to quantity, there are costs associated with the permanent loss of a historic resource through demolition.”
In May, city staff was poised to recommend that the building be demolished just before the Historic Preservation Commission stepped in to have the item removed from the City Council agenda.
Three developers had bid on the Knutson Building, but instead, the Historic Preservation Commission asked that a structural engineer examine the building.
Since purchasing the building in 2012, the city made no repairs and a collapsed roof has been the main source of water infiltration issues, according to the report from RDG and Shuck-Britson. The report notes that although the building is considered in “dilapidated” shape, no structural concerns were observed on the exterior masonry walls.
Now, the commission will decide which of three options to recommend to the City Council:
Stabilize the building before winter and dispose of the building to KHB Redevelopment Group based on their original proposal. The cost to the city is estimated at nearly $1.4 million.
Stabilize the building before winter and commit to using city funds to renovate the building with space to support the operational needs of the nearby McGrath Amphitheatre. The cost is estimated at $2.4 million.
Demolish the building and build a new facility to support the amphitheatre at a cost of $1.7 million.
Built as a condensed milk factory, the building also has housed a woodworking plant for gunstocks, the Warehouse bar and a haunted house, in addition to the Knutson scrap metal business.
The site was flooded in 2008, and KHB had asked that money that would have been spent on flood control be used for their proposed project, which included flood protection. The request was similar to what the city is providing for the new CRST International building across the river in downtown Cedar Rapids.
That agreement calls for CRST to incorporate a flood wall into the building’s lower-level parking, with the city leasing or purchasing the flood protection from CRST.