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

Posts Tagged ‘Downtown District’

Brick’s Bar & Grill finds soft spot at City Hall; council asks police chief to negotiate if he turns up nothing beyond shaky liquor license application

In City Hall, Downtown District on April 8, 2009 at 7:59 pm

Brick’s Bar & Grill, 320 Second Ave. SE, got some sympathy from the City Council last night and may be able to renew its liquor license.

The bar’s owner, Jade Hronik, stumbled into problems with the Police Department for, as Police Chief Greg Graham said last night, not being truthful on her liquor license application.

Graham cited three specifics on the license renewal application in which Hronik, who signed the document, did not report her own prior intoxication arrest and the felony arrests in 2006 of two others connected to the bar.

In her own defense, Hronik noted that she purchased and renovated the downtown Brick’s after the June flood, and that she had correctly filled out paperwork in September on the bar and for another drinking establishment in the city.

She said her license renewal application at Brick’s was incomplete, not untruthful, and she said she had not paid sufficient attention to it but had another person handle it.

Council members Tom Podzimek and Monica Vernon asked Graham to look at Hronik’s earlier liquor applications and see if they, in fact, supported Hronik’s position.

Council member Brian Fagan asked Graham if he would be willing to meet with Hronik, if all else is in order, to see if he can create a consequence for the untruthfulness short of a license denial. Graham, who said consequences are important, said he would be willing to do so.

In any event, should the council ultimately deny a license to Brick’s, the bar can stay open as it appeals to the state’s Alcohol Beverages Division. Appeals can take up to a year to resolve.

The Police Department in recent weeks convinced the City Council to block the renewal of a liquor license for The Tycoon, which is just down the block from Brick’s. The Tycoon, which did not move to renew its license in timely fashion, now has a probationary license and has agreed to better police its bar customers in an agreement with the Police Department.


Empty, flood-damaged Roosevelt may begin its return to life within a month

In City Hall on April 8, 2009 at 9:14 am

Renovation of The Roosevelt in downtown Cedar Rapids is readying to begin, developer Sherman Associates reports.

The former hotel turned apartment complex in the heart of downtown has been out of commission since the June 2008 flood.

Jackie Nickolaus, Sherman Associates vice president in Urbandale, Iowa, says that Sherman Associates finalized its purchase of The Roosevelt in December for $2.2 million.

She said that financing for the renovation should be in place by the end of April, and renovation of the building will begin immediately after that. Much of the funding is coming from federal affordable-housing tax credits, though the City Council also is providing some financial incentives. The council will address its loan commitment to the project at its April 22 meeting, Nickolaus says.

Sherman Associates’ renovation plan will turn some of old hotel’s small, efficiency apartments into larger ones and covert what had been commercial and office space on the second floor into apartments. The first floor will remain commercial space.

In total, the building will have 96 apartments, 90 of them designated as affordable.

Sherman Associates, headquartered in Minneapolis and a prolific developer and property manager, was the first to come to Cedar Rapids and use the term “work force housing” in place of affordable housing.

Income guidelines for affordable housing requires that someone have a job, and the guidelines are broad enough to apply to many people in the work force, Sherman Associates and the City Council now repeatedly point out.

Nickolaus says the first tenants should be back in The Roosevelt within six months of the start of construction. She adds that Sherman Associates is now negotiating with two first-floor commercial tenants.

McGrane says federal funds might be available for city to get into the steam utility business

In Alliant Energy, City Hall, Downtown District, Floods, Jerry McGrane, Monica Vernon on January 21, 2009 at 3:13 am

The city of Cedar Rapids already has city-owned utilities -– a water plant, a waste-water treatment facility and a sanitary sewer and storm sewer system. It also considers its garbage pickup and recycling operation as a utility.

Council member Jerry McGrane on Tuesday suggested he might be pushing his council colleagues in the direction of creating another utility, one that would create steam for heat and other uses in and near the downtown.

McGrane made note of his lobbying trip to Washington, D.C., last week with council colleagues Justin Shields and Monica Vernon to talk to Iowa’s Congressional delegation and some federal agencies about federal funds to help Cedar Rapids with its flood recovery.

McGrane said the Cedar Rapids delegation was told that federal money might be available to support the reestablishment of a downtown steam system if the city itself actually was involved in the ownership of such a utility. The thought is the city could have a private entity run the operation and ultimately buy out the city’s investment after a number of years.

It remains to be seen: McGrane is more of a decisive voice on matters concerning neighborhoods and housing.

However, council member Monica Vernon said on Tuesday, too, that the city had to figure out a solution to the steam problem.

The problem exists because the June flood damaged Alliant Energy’s aged Sixth Street Generating Station, which had produced electricity and inexpensive steam and ran it through a network of Alliant steam pipes to Quaker and Cargill and other industries near downtown, to Coe College, the city’s two hospitals and the buildings downtown.

This winter, Alliant has created a temporary setup to provide the steam, but at a price four to five times the previous price with no promise of rebuilding to prior more reasonably priced steam again.

This week, Coe College and St. Luke’s Hospital announced plans to seek federal funds to build their own steam system, and they will be in front of the City Council tonight to talk about the plan.

The two entities, though, said this week they are still open to a broader solution to the steam issue, though Pat Ball, the city’s utility director, on Tuesday forewarned the council not to expect any big news at its meeting tonight.

An Alliant spokesman said the same.

Alliant customers Coe and St. Luke’s seek federal disaster funds for their own steam plant

In Alliant Energy, City Hall, Downtown District, Floods on January 19, 2009 at 8:02 pm

Coe College and St. Luke’s Hospital are preparing to build their own operation to produce steam now that Alliant Energy has signaled it does not plan to rebuild its flood-damaged Sixth Street Generating Plant.


In a memo to City Hall, Coe and St. Luke’s said they will be seeking the City Council’s backing as the two entities pursue federal funds in the $4-million range from the U.S. Department of Commerce for a replacement steam system.


The memo, signed by Ted Townsend, president and CEO of St. Luke’s Hospital, and James Phifer, president of Coe College, states that proposed charges to customers that Alliant said were needed to rebuild the Sixth Street Generating Plant “were not economically viable” for either Coe or the hospital.


Using a temporary steam setup this winter, Coe is facing energy costs of $1 million more than they had been paying a year when the Alliant plant was making electricity and also steam for the downtown and near downtown, Coe’s Phifer says.


St. Luke’s and Coe are among a small group of larger users of the Alliant steam operation that includes Quaker and Cargill while a larger group of smaller users in and near downtown also have depended on the cheap steam from the Alliant plant.


The City Council has talked for a few months now about wanting to play a role in keeping a viable steam system in place downtown even if Alliant is not involved.


Both Coe and St. Luke’s say they are still open to a collective solution with other partners. At the same time, they need to get something more affordable in place by next winter, the entities’ executives say in their memo to the city.