Eight years after the flood with much of the recovery development behind us, the City of Cedar Rapids is in a new phase of expansion and development.
Projects underway now and into 2016 still bear connection to the Floods of 2008, but these are not stories of restoration and displacement. CRST’s new corporate headquarters, Greene Square, New Bo Station and the Kingston Village Apartments were not damaged by the flood. In fact, all but Greene Square didn’t exist — unless in the imaginations of some — at the time of the flood. Today, though, they are a reality and a testament to a city’s continued rebirth and expansion beyond the historic downtown core to New Bohemia to the south and Kingston Village to the west.
This is just the next step in what has been sustained growth in downtown Cedar Rapids since the floods in 2008.
A partially closed First Street SE and the crane jutting into Cedar Rapids skyline since summer have been constant reminders for those traveling downtown or through the city’s core that work is underway at CRST International’s headquarters along the Cedar River. Tasked with creating a “statement building” that would dramatically change the Cedar Rapids skyline, OPN Architects designed a 120,000-square-foot, 11-story tower with a cantilevered balcony that runs up to the edge of the Cedar River and a balcony with a rooftop plaza with expansive views of the river.
With all of the steel beams forming the frame of the building now in place, the full height is clear, as well is a sense of what the skyline from the south of the city will look like when it is fully complete later in 2016. Ultimately, CRST will occupy two floors. Bankers Trust is the anchor tenant with space for another eight floors of office space and three floors of parking. There will be retail on the street level.
2. GREENE SQUARE
Cedar Rapids residents got a sneak peek of the transformation of Greene Square that began in June at the recent Fire & Ice Festival on Dec. 5. Children hopped from stone to stone in one of the several seating and activity zones along the park’s original diagonal path. A new path running north to south visually and physically connects the park to the Cedar Rapids Public Library to the south and the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art to the north.
As downtown Cedar Rapids sole green space, the park’s revitalization is key to the core’s economic development. OPN Architect’s design was inspired by parks such as Chicago’s Lake Shore East Park, Iowa City’s Pedestrian Mall, Des Moines’ Pappajohn Sculpture Garden, and St. Louis’ Gateway Mall. Meant to encourage gathering, two pergolas of lights twinkled above an expansive lawn in what is now a more open and engaging park.
When work began this summer, the goal was to have the park nearly complete in time for the community tree lighting on Dec. 5. While, that deadline was met, there is some work left to be done before the summer months. Much of the grass is cordoned off to allow the sod to establish. The 40-foot sculpture donated to the city by Linn County will be installed in the spring and the water feature, with its glowing orbs that drew children in during the festival, will be better appreciated when the temperatures are closer to 100 degrees than 0.
3. NEWBOHEMIA STATION
For much of the 8 years since the Floods of 2008, the lot between 10th and 12th Avenues along Third Street SE in New Bohemia remained empty. As the neighborhood grew up around it, new construction and rehabilitated historic buildings alike, this particular lot sat untouched once the flood-damaged Brosh Chapel was demolished by the city as part of its flood recovery buyout program.
Once ground was broke in June, though, the building has seemed to spring up from the earth. The $4 million mixed-use building at 1028 Third St. SE in Cedar Rapids, will have retail on the first floor, commercial space on the second and apartments on the upper two.
Developers Craig and Scott Byers had planned for construction to be complete by December, with commercial and residential tenants moving in after the first of next year.
In 2012, OPN Architects designed the initial concepts for the multi-use project, which included retail shops on the first floor, a 14-room extended-stay hotel and ballroom/event hall on the second floor and two top floors of market-rate loft residential units. The plan also called for a 225-seat underground cinema. Funding for this version of the station did not materialize.
4. THE DEPOT
Another development in New Bohemia will also change the scope of the neighborhood. The Depot, a $20 million mixed use development, will fill the 4.8-acre site behind the NewBo City Market stretching the footprint of New Bohemia to the east closer to the Oak Hill Jackson neighborhood.
Development to the east of NewBo’s core was one of the strategies outlined by OPN Architects after the flood. Working pro bono, the firm dedicated a team to work with area stakeholders on a revitalization strategy. Through an open public process, the designers created a framework for recovery and future development in the area. The plan addresses housing, transportation, infrastructure, land use, economic development, and urban design issues. The plan maintained the area’s urban, industrial identity and historic architecture while introducing new businesses and attractions.
Ahmann Companies Inc. is developing the four-building, 90,000-square-foot residential, office and retail complex on the site of the former Iowa Iron Works plant in the 400 block of 12th Avenue SW. Construction began in June and is scheduled to be complete later in 2016.
5. KINGSTON VILLAGE
Four housing developments to the west of the Cedar River continue the downtown expansion across the river and into Kingston Village.
Kingston Lofts along the 200 block of Third Avenue SW broke ground in April 2015 and nears completion by July 2016. The four-story building will have retail space below apartments and condominiums on the upper three floors.
Just off the interstate, Kingston Village Apartments broke ground in early 2015 and is near completion. The $9.7 million, 64-unit complex fills a block once occupied by single-family homes that were inundated during and abandoned after the floods in 2008.
Hobart Historic Restoration is behind two more loft projects along the riverfront. The group is turning the Mott building, a historic warehouse on the National Register of Historic Places, into 16 apartments on the upper floors with commercial space on the ground floor. They’re also developing the 400 block of First Street SW with the construction of a $9.2 million, six-story building with first floor retail, four floors of apartments and two penthouse condominiums.
The Metropolitan will face downtown just as the adjacent Kingston Commons Condominiums. OPN Architects worked with the developer on the condominiums, Fred Timko, to transform the historic Louis Sullivan-designed bank at 101 Third Ave. SW. as the first post-flood restorations in the Kingston Village in 2014.