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

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.

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