Public meeting set to discuss Auto Row historic district
CEDAR RAPIDS – The city has invited property owners to a meeting to discuss why a historic nomination will no longer be pursued for their southeast Cedar Rapids business district.
Some of the property owners objected after the city backed out of an agreement to nominate the Second Avenue SE Auto Row Historic District to the National Register of Historic Places.
The city was required to nominate the proposed district, from Sixth to 10th streets SE between Second and Third avenues, to mitigate for the loss of the First Street Parkade, which was deemed historic and demolished in 2011 using federal funds.
“The study and nomination of the 2nd Ave. SE Auto Row Historic District was selected as an appropriate project to mitigate the loss of the Parkade,” the letter to property owners stated.
That historic district would have paid tribute to the automobile industry’s importance in transforming Cedar Rapids into the second largest city in Iowa by the mid-20th Century.
In April, however, the city requested the funding instead go to a new Historic Preservation program at Kirkwood Community College.
No reason was given in the letter for the change. Five of the property owners had been omitted from an earlier meeting to discuss the proposed district with representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Instead, only representatives of the city’s medical district, all of whom opposed the historic district, attended that meeting.
Thomas Smith, staff liaison for the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, has said the property owners “were inadvertently missed in the process of compiling and mailing the information.”
Maura Pilcher, vice president of Save CR Heritage, later met with those owners to discuss the ramifications of owning a property in a historic district. The non-profit group works to preserve the city’s historic resources.
Owners of contributing structures can access grants and historic tax credits for renovations that meet guidelines. Buildings in historic districts can be demolished as long as no federal funds are used.
Pilcher noted that the buildings likely are not eligible to be listed individually on the National Register.
Tom Owen, who owns a building that would have been in the historic district at 608 Second Ave. SE, said most property owners are in favor of pursuing the nomination.
The letter noted that the property owners could continue the nomination on their own – a process that would cost thousands of dollars – but Owen said the owners would like to see the city follow through on its promise.
Already, one of the 16 contributing structures in the district – those with distinctive architectural character – has been demolished. The former A-1 Vacuum, 209 Seventh St. SE, was razed earlier this year to make way for parking.
The public meeting to discuss the mitigation agreement and information about the National Register of Historic Places is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 8 at the Police Station Briefing Room, 505 First St. SW. This would have been the district’s boundaries: