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

Archive for July 7th, 2009|Daily archive page

Renovation of the empty, flood-damaged Roosevelt looks like it really will get going now

In City Hall on July 7, 2009 at 9:21 pm

Minneapolis developer Sherman Associates Inc. is going to start its renovation of The Roosevelt, the former downtown hotel and now an empty, flood-damaged apartment complex, yet.

The start of the renovation has been pending for a few months now as Sherman Associates has worked out the details of its federal tax-credit financing that requires some local City Hall help.

On Wednesday evening, the City Council will alter its previously approved incentive to the project by increasing a temporary loan of $300,000 to $650,000, and by adding $26,000 to a long-term loan, bringing it to $1.632 million. The long-term loan will be paid back over 30 years at 1-percent annual interest.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Jackie Nickolaus, a Sherman Associates vice president with an office in Urbandale, Iowa, said the firm is hoping to close on the project’s financing as close to July 15 as possible. Work on the renovation of The Roosevelt will begin the day after the financing closes, she said.

The $10.3-million renovation will convert the 12-story building’s second floor to apartments and do away with the building’s small, efficiency apartments. In the end, there will be 96 units, 90 of which will have rents considerable “affordable” and targeted to those who make less than the median household income. The building’s first floor will remain commercial space.

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City Hall moving ahead with idea to buy Pepsi’s two and half blocks just off downtown for a new Intermodal Transit Facility

In City Hall on July 7, 2009 at 3:34 pm

City Hall is moving ahead with a plan to buy two-and-a-half blocks of property just off the downtown owned by Pepsi Americas Inc., according to a City Hall report to city employees.

The city plans to put its new bus depot, called the Intermodal Transit Facility, on part of the site.

Pepsi operates a warehouse and maintenance operation on the property and has its office there at 400 Sixth Ave. SE.

In early March, the City Council selected the Pepsi Americas Inc. property as the preferred site with the new transit facility.

City staff and Pepsi have been talking since, and Pepsi now is meeting with local contractors to determine the cost to relocate to a new facility. The city is expected an update from Pepsi this month.

The city’s plan is to buy the entire two-and-half blocks and then to sell what it doesn’t need for the Intermodal Transit Facility.

In part, the city picked the Pepsi site with the idea that the Pepsi operation is something of an industrial operation not necessarily suited for a spot close to the downtown.

The city has been trying for years to build the transit facility, and has had $9 million in federal funds in place for the project since 2002.

Initially, the new depot was slated to go up across First Avenue East from the U.S. Cellular Center. Next, the city moved the site to Second Street SE. The current council said the Second Street SE site didn’t make sense because it was so close to the Ground Transportation Center bus depot. The council then decided to close the GTC depot and move its function into the new Intermodal facility at Sixth Street SE and Ninth Avenue SE. That site flooded, though, and the Federal Transit Administration said the city can’t build there. That led the council to the Pepsi site.

In the meantime, the council also has to decide what to do with the GTC depot site, which also flooded in June 2008.

For now, the bus terminal is operating out of temporary buildings in the city’s Park and Ride lot along Second Street SE.

Get ready for more poster boards: City Hall set to launch a public-input process on energy in the midst of one on key, flood-damaged buildings

In City Hall on July 7, 2009 at 8:56 am

Put July 23 on your calendar.

City Hall is starting another public participation process — no doubt, with the room filled with poster boards, city staff and a sprinkling of consultants.

The latest push is gain public input on a City Hall energy policy.

This comes even as City Hall is already in the midst of a second public participation process related to the city’s key, flood-damaged buildings, which include the Veterans Memorial Building/City Hall, the downtown library, the bus depot and the old federal courthouse. The next open house related to facilities is Aug. 18.
On the energy front, the city wants the public’s help on three tasks: to devise a city energy management plan; to implement a plan to turn biomass waste like sewage sludge and municipal garbage into energy; and to adopt an approach to incorporate LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards into the city’s building practices.

In a presentation to the City Council last week, Pat Ball, the city’s utilities director, says the city has funding from a $1.3-million federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant plus $250,000 from the Iowa Power Fund, the latter which requires a $250,000 city match.

The city already has embarked on a waste-to-energy study, which could provide steam to parts of the downtown and/or elsewhere in the city.

Ball said the time is perfect for such study.

The city not only needs to replace its incinerator at the city’s Water Pollution Control facility, but the federal government appears ready to implement a “cap-and-trade” system that will make alternative energy all the more attractive, Ball told the council.

Ball said, too, that Cedar Rapids and Iowa are right in the middle of the area in the country where there is plenty of biomass from agricultural production and other sources to help fuel waste-to-energy projects.

City documents note the city is getting help from three professional engineering firms: HDR, with headquarters in Omaha, Neb., and an office in Hiawatha; Foth, with headquarters in Green Bay, Wis., and an office in Cedar Rapids; and Sebesta Blomberg & Associates, with headquarters in Roseville, Minn., and an office in Cedar Rapids.