The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

Archive for April 22nd, 2009|Daily archive page

City Hall 30-year loan for downtown’s flood-damaged Roosevelt clears way for $10.3-million renovation to begin

In City Hall on April 22, 2009 at 7:59 pm

The renovation of the flood-damaged Roosevelt building downtown is set to begin.

The City Council last night approved a 30-year, 1-percent loan of $1.6 million to help in the $10.3-million affordable housing project.

Much of the funding secured by developer Sherman Associates Inc., Minneapolis, Minn., consists of federal low-income housing tax credits. The city’s loan likely will lessen to a $1-million one once the renovation of the historic building secures historic tax-credit financing.

The city earlier provided other short-term funding for the project, which will be paid back once the renovation is complete.

The renovated Roosevelt, which was converted to apartments from a hotel some years ago, will consist of 96 housing units, 90 of which will be affordable ones.

Jackie Nickolaus, Sherman vice president, told the council last night that the top three floors of the Roosevelt, which had been renovated in recent years by the prior owner, might be ready to occupy within six months once the building’s mechanical systems are installed.

Sherman Associates bought the building in December for $2.2 million.

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Vernon and Shields say plan to upgrade U.S. Cellular Center and add convention center has best chance among local projects for securing U.S. Commerce Department grant

In City Hall on April 22, 2009 at 7:24 pm

The City Council last night endorsed a previously-announced decision by the city’s Five Seasons Facilities Commission to seek $39.2 million from the U.S. Department of Commerce to upgrade the U.S. Cellular Center and add a convention center to it.

The total cost of the U.S. Cellular Center improvements is estimated to be $52.25 million, and the Five Seasons Facilities Commission envisions securing $13 million in additional funds from the state of Iowa.

The U.S. Cellular Center is one of several local projects seeking disaster relief from the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration. The council has endorsed all of them.

Last night, though, council members Monica Vernon and Justin Shields suggested that the city’s U.S. Cellular Center project may stand the best chance among local projects to win an Economic Development Administration grant because it meets the federal agency’s requirement that a project promote economic development.

Having a convention center that can attract conventions will help spur development in the downtown, Shields said.

Recently, the council prioritized the local projects seeking grant money and, in doing so, it said the top priority was a proposal to support the flood-damaged steam system that serves the downtown, industries nearby, the hospitals and Coe College.

Last night, council member Kris Gulick suggested that the council revisit how it prioritized projects.

Flood-hit National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library seeks Vision Iowa funds; collections will never return to existing building

In City Hall on April 22, 2009 at 11:28 am

The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library will seek some millions of dollars over a few years from the state’s Vision Iowa Board to help with its flood recovery, Gail Naughton, president/CEO of the facility, told the City Council last night.

Naughton won City Council support to pursue Vision Iowa funds from the state’s Riverfront Enhancement Community Attraction and Tourism program and/or from its Community Attraction and Tourism program.

During her presentation to the council, Naughton reported that the museum/library now has purchased the former Music Loft space in Czech Village to house its office and some exhibition space so it can get back close to its flood-damaged museum/library building.

Naughton also told the council that the existing building never again will house museum collections and exhibitions. She said that curators in the Czech Republic who provide collections for the Cedar Rapids would not allow their items displayed in a venue that has been flooded.

“It’s just been marked,” Naughton said of the flood-damaged building.

She said the thinking now is the existing building would become an education and cultural center while the museum/library’s collections and exhibits would be housed at a proposed new $17.75-million exhibition center and research library that would house collections and exhibits.

The non-profit organization’s recovery plan includes $25 million in improvements, including the addition of the exhibition center and research library.

Earlier Wednesday, Naughton said the museum/library sustained more than $10 million in flood damage.

Naughton said the organization continues to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency on a final damage assessment and how to proceed with the museum/library’s existing building. The building, she explained, sits one foot above the city’s 100-year floodplain.

The city’s plan for permanent flood protection calls for removable flood walls to protect Czech Village as well as both sides of the Cedar River in the downtown.

Naughton said one concept for the removable flood walls is that they would run on the edge of the museum/library’s terrace between the river and the museum/library, which is perched near the river.

But the final details of such protection won’t be decided for a few years yet, she noted.

Much, she added, is still up in the air. “We’d like to reuse it,” she said of the existing museum/library building, one of the city’s chief tourism attractions.