Cedar Rapids casino plan would leave historic building standing
(Updated Jan. 5, 2017, to note that two of three buildings could still be at risk.)
By Cindy Hadish/Save CR Heritage
CEDAR RAPIDS – At least one historic downtown building that concerned preservationists appears to be spared under new plans for a boutique casino.
The city’s Historic Preservation Commission had asked for information on the casino plans, after architectural illustrations of the proposed design showed three historic buildings missing.
Jennifer Pratt, Cedar Rapids community development director, said the city had no information to provide to the commission, as the buildings are privately owned and the city, so far, has no involvement in the proposed casino, which would be located in the 400 block of First Avenue SE, across from the parking ramp for the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel and Cedar Rapids Convention Complex.
“We haven’t received any plans,” Pratt said after the Historic Preservation Commission meeting in December 2016. She added that city officials were surprised to learn of the casino plans through the media.
The buildings – the five-story Skogman building and smaller Bever and Sub City buildings – are all included in the downtown historic district. The listing on the National Register of Historic Places, however, offers no protection from demolition.
Developer Steve Emerson said Dec. 30 that the casino – which first needs a license approved by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission – would be located on the parking lot between the Skogman building and railroad tracks.
“We changed the design so we could preserve the Skogman building rather than demo it,” he said. “It is a pretty significant building historically.”
Emerson would refurbish the Skogman building back to its original architecture as a railroad building, prior to when metal panels and smaller windows were installed, he said.
The Romanesque revival-style building, 411 First Ave. SE, designed by Josselyn and Taylor, was constructed in 1885 as the headquarters of the Burlington, Cedar Rapids and Northern Railway, with the fourth story added in 1898. The basement is used as its first floor, making it, in effect, a five-story building.
The Cedar Rapids Assessor’s site indicates that the Skogman Group owns the Bever Building, 417 First Ave. SE, and the building that houses Sub City, 421 First Ave. SE, both constructed in 1923. Skogman representatives did not return phone calls for comment and preservationists are concerned that the two buildings could still be at-risk.
Sub City is in the historic Faulkes Building, which began as a radio equipment shop. The Bever building was designed by Harry Edgar Hunter, who was associated with Norman Hatton and known for his residential architecture.
All three buildings are individually eligible for the National Register of Historic Places for their distinctive architecture and are among 52 properties deemed contributing structures to the Central Business District Commercial Historic District. The district was just listed on the National Register in 2015.