CR School Board to decide fate of district’s oldest standing school
UPDATE: Tonight’s board meeting has been pushed ahead to 5 p.m. The public hearing on Lincoln Elementary is first on the agenda.
CEDAR RAPIDS – The Cedar Rapids School Board would be demolishing its oldest school building if the board votes to raze Lincoln Elementary.
A public hearing to discuss demolition has been set for Monday, Oct. 14, during the board’s regular meeting at 5:30 p.m. at the Educational Leadership & Support Center, 2500 Edgewood Rd. NW. The public is welcome to speak at the hearing.
Kirkwood Community College used the building, at 912 18th Ave. SW, after Lincoln Elementary closed in the 1970s, but moved out in the summer of 2011.
“Lincoln School was built and opened in 1910, making it the oldest Cedar Rapids School District building still standing,” Cedar Rapids historian Mark Stoffer Hunter said, adding that the board hasn’t tried to tear down one of its older buildings in 40 years.
Stoffer Hunter, a member of Save CR Heritage, wondered if the board realizes the historic value of the school.
He noted that the architect was Cedar Rapids’ own Charles Dieman, who designed several buildings that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including homes in the Pucker Street Historic District in Marion.
School district officials have said they tried to sell the building, most recently for $295,000, to no avail.
Cedar Rapids commercial real estate broker, Scott Olson, has represented the school district in marketing the building.
The school is not shown in any of Olson’s listings for Skogman Commercial Real Estate, nor is the building mentioned anywhere on the school district’s website, because, Olson said, the building is not a listing, but rather, part of a marketing agreement with the district.
Olson, who also serves on the Cedar Rapids City Council, compared the sale of the school to flood-damaged buildings.
“It’s finding the right fit,” he said.
To that end, Olson said several potential buyers have come forth in recent weeks, particularly after hearing that the building could be demolished.
“We have lots of prospects,” he said, citing three churches, a non-profit and a housing group that are all considering the building.
At the same Oct. 14 meeting, the school board will consider the sale of Monroe Elementary, 3200 Pioneer Ave. SE, to the Affordable Housing Network to build apartments and lofts as part of a larger plan that includes homes on the site.
Olson said the housing group that plans to tour Lincoln school is not the Affordable Housing Network, but did not name the group.
Kirkwood kept up the building with improvements in the years the college leased the school, he noted.
“The building is actually in decent shape,” Olson said, citing fairly new roofs, rooms with zoned air-conditioning units, energy-efficient windows and new boilers that keep utility bills low.
With more than 20,000-square feet, including a multi-purpose room and kitchen, the building does need paint and new carpet, he said, and would need to be brought up to code under the Americans with Disabilities Act, though that could be waived with a historic designation.
Olson said he is confident the school district will find a buyer, but added that Superintendent David Benson wants demolition discussed so the building is not left vacant much longer.
Charley Crago, who lives across the street from the school, is hopeful the district does enough to attract a buyer.
“I always thought it would make beautiful high-end condos,” Crago said, citing amenities such as brick walls, hardwood floors and large windows.
Crago listed other potential uses for Lincoln Elementary, such as headquarters for the home-school network.
“I love it – I wish they’d take the (newer) annex off and I wish they’d keep it,” she said. “I’d hate to see them tear it down and leave it a vacant parking lot.”