Building update: new Lincoln Elementary owner schedules open house
CEDAR RAPIDS – The oldest school in Cedar Rapids is in the midst of its transformation into a place of worship, while two city-owned commercial buildings are in limbo and a third could soon be on the market for a new owner.
An open house is scheduled for 3-7 p.m. Saturday, June 28, 2014, at the new Sanctuary Ministries church in the former Lincoln Elementary School, 912 18th Ave. SW. Hot dogs and other food will be served, with tours of the building available.
The Cedar Rapids School Board voted in February to sell the building, designed by local architect Charles Dieman and constructed in 1910, after previously considering demolition.
“We had a full house last Sunday,” said John Hankins, 47, pastor of the non-denominational church.
Hankins said the church closed on the building with the Cedar Rapids School District on June 2 and began services in the former gymnasium the next Sunday, with help from 80 volunteers from Honeywell.
“We closed on Wednesday and they were here Thursday morning,” he said. The volunteers helped tear out old carpeting, did yardwork, installed new kitchen cabinets and provided other assistance to begin the transformation of the 104-year-old school, which most recently was used by Kirkwood Community College.
St. Patrick’s Catholic Church donated dishes, Chick-fil-A donated three refrigerators and a freezer and Honeywell donated two new stoves.
“Not one of these people did we call,” Hankins said. “Everyone’s found us, one way or another.”
The site is already hosting free lunches during the summer for neighborhood students and has a Sunday service at 10 a.m., with a Hispanic service on Sundays at 4 p.m.
The future is less certain for two buildings owned by the city of Cedar Rapids that were purchased after the 2008 flood.
Thomas Smith, planner in the Cedar Rapids Community Development Department, said the city received no proposals for 720 First Ave. NW or 615 K Ave. NW.
“We extended the deadline for both parcels to ensure ample time for interested parties to perform additional research into the historic nature of the buildings and explore tax credit opportunities,” he said, adding that the State Historic Preservation Office sent a determination in April noting that the First Avenue building was not considered historic and was therefore ineligible for the historic tax credit program.
Smith said interest was expressed for the building on K Avenue NW, which faces Ellis Boulevard, but no formal proposal was submitted.
Both 1920s-era buildings had been on the city’s demolition list after the flood, until advocates asked that they be removed and offered up for redevelopment proposals.
Built in 1922, the First Avenue building, which has more than 9,000-square-feet, had long ago been used by The Gazette and was most recently Ajram Interiors.
Cedar Rapids historian Mark Stoffer Hunter said the K Avenue building originally was Zastera Pharmacy. The small corner shop, which has two storefronts facing Ellis Boulevard, housed a barbershop and laundromat before the flood, he said.
The “next steps” for the buildings are being determined, Smith said.
Another city-owned property will be discussed at the City Council Development Committee meeting at 4 p.m. Monday, June 30.
Built in 1887, the Knutson Building, 525 H St. SW, one of the city’s oldest commercial structures still standing, could be offered for redevelopment proposals.
Smith noted that the most recent assessed value before the city acquired the building was $129,121.
“But the City would accept bids of a different price, depending on the value that the proposal would add to the integrity and re-use of the structure,” he said.
Originally a condensed milk factory, the riverfront building has also housed a woodworking plant for gunstocks, the Warehouse bar, a haunted house and scrap metal business.
Stoffer Hunter, a member of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission and Save Cedar Rapids Heritage, noted that few buildings from the era survive in Cedar Rapids.