Meeting set to consider taking 1920s-era buildings off demolition list
UPDATE: Anyone interested in these buildings should contact Cedar Rapids Housing Redevelopment Analyst, Caleb Mason, at (319)286-5188 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
CEDAR RAPIDS – With more than 1,000 homes and businesses razed after the 2008 floods, advocates are hoping to pull two remaining commercial buildings in northwest Cedar Rapids off the demolition list.
“We lost so much,” said Linda Seger, president of the Northwest Neighbors Neighborhood Association. “We’d like to save what’s left.”
The Cedar Rapids Development Committee is scheduled to consider the disposition of 720 First Ave. NW and 615 K Ave. NW at its meeting at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 22, at City Hall Council Chambers, 101 First St. SE. The meeting is open to the public.
Both buildings were purchased by the city and destined for demolition, but potentially could be offered for redevelopment if someone comes forward with a plan.
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, also built in the 1920s, originally was Zastera Pharmacy.
The small corner shop, which has two storefronts facing Ellis Boulevard, housed a barbershop and laundromat before the flood.
“It’s not overly ornamental,” Stoffer Hunter, a member of Save CR Heritage, said of the building, citing marble floors and unique brickwork among its attributes. “It’s the last piece of (commercial) property on that strip there.”
Just across the street, the Ellis Boulevard A&W was demolished last year, after a proposed redevelopment plan failed to come to fruition.
Floodwaters in 2008 penetrated 10 square miles or 1,126 city blocks of Cedar Rapids, after which about 1,200 properties were bought by the city and demolished.
The state recently designated Ellis Boulevard as a “viable business corridor,” to allow new construction in the 100-year flood plain.
Seger, who rebuilt her Eighth Street NW home with the help of family members after the flood, worries that the character of Ellis Boulevard could forever be lost if a large-scale development is built on that block.
Already, the city is considering a four-story senior housing project for the area. High Development is proposing Sonoma Square be built at Ellis Boulevard and J Avenue NW.
Seger said she is not opposed to affordable senior housing, but would like to see the K Avenue building redeveloped as an ice cream shop, pharmacy, coffee shop or other family-friendly business.
She pointed to the new La Bella Pet Spa, diagonally across from the building at 1200 Ellis Blvd. NW, as an example of the small businesses that previously characterized the pedestrian-friendly neighborhood.
“We have more families now and we’re very diverse,” Seger said of the influx of new homeowners in the neighborhood. “We want to keep that going.”