Late-1800s home on Cedar Rapids casino site faces demolition
By Cindy Hadish/Save CR Heritage
CEDAR RAPIDS – It’s the last house standing on a lot where city leaders had gambled on a casino, but the home at 115 Second St. SW might need more than Lady Luck on its side to come out a winner.
The city is accepting bids for the home, but not the land. The winning bidder will have to move the building, or it will be demolished.
Built in 1898, the house was restored after the 2008 flood.
City directories list 115 S. Second St. W in 1899 as the residence of newlyweds Fred and Roxie Lazell.
Fred Lazell was the telegraph editor of the Cedar Rapids Republican, became the newspaper’s city editor, then was Cedar Rapids parks commissioner.
Cecil Meister and his family lived in the home in 1922. Meister was assistant manager for the city’s second Piggly Wiggly grocery store at 117 Third Ave. SW.
Cedar Rapids City Planner, Jeff Hintz, a staff liaison for the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, told the commission that the city wants the house and another nearby building removed to make way for a “catalyst site.”
The full city block, between First and Second avenues and First and Second streets SW, was cleared of nearly all structures to make way for a proposed casino before the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission turned down the city’s request for a gaming license last April.
City leaders are continuing to pursue a casino idea through the Iowa Legislature, but Hintz said there are no definitive plans for the site once the remaining buildings are gone.
“Vacant green land is less of a hassle” for developers, he said. “The city honestly doesn’t have any plans for this site.”
Demolition applications for buildings over 50 years old are reviewed by the Historic Preservation Commission, which can place a 60-day hold on buildings that might be saved.
That 60-day time frame is generally insufficient for anyone to come forward with plans to move a building, but in this case, commission members asked the city to make an attempt to find a buyer.
“There’s nothing wrong with it,” commission member B.J. Hobart said of the structure. “Where’s the fire; why are we taking these down?”
The three-bedroom, 1 1/2-story home is not considered a historically significant building, Hintz said.
Still, commission member Ronald Mussman questioned the need for the city to demolish buildings, which removes them from the tax rolls, when the structure is sound and there is no pressing need for the land.
The city has had more than 1,200 buildings demolished since the 2008 flood, most using federal funds at an average cost of $8,000 to $12,000 per structure.
Commission member Mark Stoffer Hunter, a member of Save CR Heritage, which advocates for repurposing older buildings, said the house would be a good fit south of Eighth Avenue SW, where homes were lost to the flood.
“It’s in really good shape,” he said of the house. “If the city has property to get rid of, why do they think demolition first?”
Stoffer Hunter noted that 100 years ago, there were a dozen houses in the 100 block of Second Street SW.
“This is the last one left,” he said. “Nearby houses at 112 Second St. SW and 129 First Ave. SW were demolished after damage from the 2008 flood, but this one came back. Hope it makes it.”
Diane Langton of The Gazette contributed to this article.
Note: Bids are accepted at the City Services Building, 500 15th Ave. SW.
Questions can be directed to 319-286-5802.
For more information and interior photos of the home, see the city’s website.
Sealed bids will be opened on April 10, 2015, at 1 p.m.