CEDAR RAPIDS – No, Brucemore isn’t for sale.
The 26-acre estate with its 19th-century mansion was the target of a satiric Wikipedia edit that claimed the city was selling the iconic historic site in southeast Cedar Rapids.
Under “Recent Developments,” the altered Brucemore Wikipedia page, posted by an anonymous editor earlier this month, alleged that the City Council had begun exploring demolition of the mansion to make way for two new strip malls, featuring fast-food chains.
“Initially, mayor Ron Corbett, was against the idea,” claimed the post, written in satiric news style à la The Onion. “At the last meeting that began to change once he saw the proposed plans for the site. ‘Listen, my job as mayor is to squeeze tax dollars out of every parcel of available land.’ He continued, ‘Don’t get me wrong, Irene Douglas’s greenhouse is a real feast for the eyes, but I can also envision myself enjoying a 12 inch Baja sub from Quizznos in that very space.'”
When contacted today, Corbett said he had not heard about the Wikipedia edit and noted that the city of Cedar Rapids does not own Brucemore.
Margaret Hall left the family estate to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and a local board oversees Brucemore’s operations.
Brucemore Executive Director, David Janssen, said the change to the Wikipedia page was removed as soon as Brucemore staff learned of it last week.
“We ran across it pretty early,” he said. “We don’t know who did it or where it came from.”
Assistant Director Maura Pilcher said she heard from a friend in Des Moines who was concerned about the “news.”
“Do you still have a job?” Pilcher said she was asked.
Janssen said he was unaware of other calls about the edit, which he called “obviously erroneous.”
“It was so absurd,” he said. “It sounded like someone was trying to make a point and using our visibility to do that. That’s not the statement we would want to make.”
Janssen said the altered page points to the issue of misinformation on Wikipedia being accepted as factual.
The collaborative online encyclopedia can be edited by anyone, according to Wikipedia’s own page.
“Don’t be afraid to edit – anyone can edit almost every page, and we are encouraged to be bold!” the page states, adding that all edits can be “reversed, fixed or improved later.”
Janssen said the edit to Brucemore’s page was so outlandish that he doubted anyone would accept its veracity.
“We’re focused on accuracy,” he said. “In this case, as a historian and preservationist, I see what they were trying to do, but I wish they hadn’t used Brucemore’s Wikipedia page to try to make their point.”
More than 1,200 homes and businesses were demolished in Cedar Rapids after the floods of 2008. At the same time, others untouched by floodwaters, including the historic First Christian Church, 840 Third Ave. SE, were razed to make way for parking in the new Cedar Rapids medical district.
Save Cedar Rapids Heritage, a nonprofit that formed in response to the church demolition, works to raise awareness of preservation concerns in Cedar Rapids, but was not affiliated with the changes to Brucemore’s Wikipedia page.
City Councilwoman Monica Vernon, who, like Corbett, was mentioned in the satiric post, said she was unaware of the changed page.
The two developers cited in the edit appear to be fictitious.
“Of course, that would be the last thing we would do with Brucemore,” said Vernon, who is running for U.S. Congress. “We’re very lucky to have that here. Certainly, I value that.”
Following is the edit to Brucemore’s Wikipedia page, as posted in early March:
In February, the Cedar Rapids City Council began to explore the idea of tearing down the 128 year old structure to make way for new development. Initially, mayor Ron Corbett, was against the idea. Citing the importance of the property to the cultural fabric of the city. At the last meeting that began to change once he saw the proposed plans for the site. “Listen, my job as mayor is to squeeze tax dollars out of every parcel of available land.”. He continued, “Don’t get me wrong, Irene Douglas’s greenhouse is a real feast for the eyes, but I can also envision myself enjoying a 12 inch Baja sub from Quizznos in that very space. And more importantly, the 4th most popular sub chain would help generate much needed tax revenue.”
The developers plans include two four unit strip malls. The first strip mall will contain a new dry cleaners, a payday loan establishment, and two Subways. Which would effectively bring the number of the largest fast-food chain’s stores in the Cedar Rapid’s metro to 83. The other strip mall is still looking to attract tenants. Developer, John Forsyth says, “We are working hard on filling up the space, we are getting close to making a deal with a new Indian run tobacco outlet store.” Forsyth also assured the council that the strip malls would follow city building guidelines. “Listen, these are not going to be crummy strip malls like they built in the 70s and 80s. They will be all classy like with red brick.”
Forsyth and his backers also are looking to create a hard surfaced parking lot with 400 spaces for a proposed new dermatology office that will sit in the space that is currently occupied by a century old swimming pool. There is also the possibility of developing 12 new stand alone chain restaurants in what is now the mansion’s vast front yard. Outback Steakhouse has already expressed interest in moving from their current location at 1st Ave and 40th Street. Councilwoman, Monica Vernon, showed much enthusiasm for the project, “Imagine, eating authentic Australian cuisine on the current beautiful grounds of the Brucemore estate. No rules, just right indeed!”
The council is aware there will be some push back from “certain” segments of the city’s populace. They have agreed to sell the house for the symbolic total of $1. After the sale, the new owner will have 3 months to move the house to a new site. The council will listen to all proposals. So far, only one has been offered. Local real estate developer Guy Mitchell has offered to move the mansion north of Bowman Woods where it will be converted into affordable housing. This plan has not been approved as of March 2nd, 2014.
Mayor Ron Corbett simply states, “Okay, we have come a long way since the flood of 08′, but we still have infrastructure needs to tend to. I mean come on, having a bunch of country club types sit around watching hot air balloons get filled ain’t getting the potholes fixed. Am I right?”