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

Posts Tagged ‘New Bohemia’

City focuses anew on New Bohemia brownfields; contaminated soil at former Iowa Steel and Iowa Iron Works sites to be removed to ready for redevelopment

In New Bohemia on July 20, 2009 at 1:12 pm

City Hall is taking a fresh step in its decade-long plan to clean up nearly 50 acres of old industrial sites a few blocks from the edge of downtown.

By early August, a contractor will begin excavating “contaminated soil” at the sites of the former Iowa Steel plant and the former Iowa Iron Works plant, which straddle the 400 block of 12th Avenue SE. These sites are just up the street from a Third Street SE commercial strip now considered the heart of the New Bohemia arts and entertainment district.

The city’s work order calls for the first six feet of ground at the former Iowa Steel site at 415 12th Ave. SE to be removed and hauled to the local landfill and for the first three feet of ground at the former Iowa Iron Works site at 400 12th Ave. SE, likewise, to be removed and hauled to the local landfill.

At that point, tests will be conducted to make sure no additional contaminants remain in the soil. Further excavation will take place if there are additional contaminants.

Richard Luther, the city’s development manager, reported on Monday that Rathje Construction Co., Marion, submitted the apparent low bid for the project of about $42,000, nearly $30,000 below the engineer’s estimate for the work, he said.

The city’s bid documents call for the work to be completed by Sept. 30. Once completed, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources will issue a letter stating that no further action is necessary.

Luther said the two brownfield industrial sites can be redeveloped for commercial, office or residential use.

City documents note that the city is basing the scope of the excavations on an October 2005 report prepared by engineering firm Howard R. Green Co. of Cedar Rapids.

Of the two former metal plants, the Iowa Iron Works plant was demolished most recently, in the summer of 2001.

The city owns two other former industrial sites nearby, the empty former Quality Chef Co. building on Third Street SE and the empty former Sinclair meatpacking site at the end of Third Street SE.

Last week, council member Brian Fagan asked for updates on those two properties, both of which took on flood water in 2008. Fagan wondered when they might be demolished.

Oakhill Jackson/New Bohemia creates its own neighborhood redevelopment corp. despite City Hall-endorsed one with $1.5 million in public money

In Floods, Neighborhoods on April 9, 2009 at 3:19 pm

City Hall two weeks ago orchestrated the creation of a non-profit Neighborhood Development Corp. and, it turns out, a neighborhood can create one of those corporations, too.

That is just what has happened.

Eight people sat in a conference room at Horizons family-services agency, 819 Fifth St. SE, on Thursday morning and created the Oakhill Jackson New Bohemia Neighborhood Development Corp.

In the creation, the eight elected officers: Dale Todd, president; Scott Jamieson, vice president; Michael Richards, secretary; Fred Timko, treasurer.

Board members also in attendance were Chuck Hammond, Peggy Whitworth, Mel Andringa and Ed Young Jr.

Todd is a former City Council member, past president of the Wellington Heights Neighborhood Association, and currently an associate of Des Moines developer Jack Hatch, who has plans to build the Oakhill Jackson Brickstone Apartments along Sixth Street SE.

E. Scott Jamieson is the CEO of the Horizons family services agency; Richards is president of the Oakhill Jackson Neighborhood Association; and Timko is president/CEO of Point Builders Inc. and developer of BottleWorks Loft Condos, 905 Third St. SE.

Hammond is CEO at Raining Rose Inc.; Whitworth, retired former director of Brucemore; Andringa is co-founder of Legion Arts; and Young is enterprise manager at the African American Museum of Iowa.

The new non-profit entity has come to be because its board members say they want to get redevelopment moving in the flood-damaged Oakhill Jackson Neighborhood — it contains the New Bohemia arts and cultural district. City Hall hasn’t gotten such redevelopment moving, the board says.

The new board of the new corporation — the name is so long it’s tempting to settle for OJNBNDC — is well aware of the other neighborhood development corporation, the City Hall-endorsed Neighborhood Development Corp., which the City Council created on March 25.

And the new group is well aware, too, that the council has funneled $1.5 million in state funds to the corporation it has endorsed. It is money that will be used to pay a director, Carol Bower of Des Moines, to set up an office here and begin to look at buying up property for redevelopment with a focus on commercial redevelopment.

But so what, the new neighborhood corporation’s members say.

After its meeting Thursday morning, Jamieson said the neighborhood’s own development corporation can work in concert with whatever or whoever is working to help the city recover from the 2008 flood.

But he said the neighborhood’s own upstart corporation can bring “clarity” to the job at hand and get the work started without waiting on City Hall. The corporation can benefit the City Council and is willing to take the council’s help, but it doesn’t need to depend on it, Jamieson said.

Raining Rose’s CEO Chuck Hammond said the new group believes “we’ve got to do something else.” “There are significant needs unmet,” he said.

Jamieson’s helping-services agency employs 90 people in the neighborhood and Hammond’s company employs 65 there.

On Thursday, the board said it wanted to position itself to qualify for federal and state funding as a local nonprofit group.

The board also took steps to make improvements at what has been known as New Bo Park, which sits to the south of the BottleWorks Loft Condos and the WaterTower Place condominiums next door.

The board will assume ownership of the park for now while BottleWorks will make improvements to it and maintain it. BottleWorks’ Timko said the development budget for the loft condos includes money to fix up the park.

The OJNBNRC also committed to a neighborhood cleanup of stray glass and nails, and will call on local AmeriCorps members to help out.

Water-filled bladders and sand-filled baskets to provide temporary flood protection; but cost too great to protect New Bohemia/Oak Hill

In Brian Fagan, City Hall, Floods on February 25, 2009 at 9:56 pm

The City Council moved ahead to purchase a temporary flood control system to protect many of the flood-prone parts of the city to some degree until permanent protection is in place.

The temporary system, which will cost $6.6 million for materials and mobilization if needed, will be available this flood season.

The council approved the concept of a temporary system a few weeks ago, but wanted to hear more about why it was too expensive to protect the lowest-lying area along the river, the New Bohemia/Oak Hill area.

Last night, the council agreed with consultant Stanley Consultants Inc., Muscatine, Iowa, that it did not make sense to spend an additional $3 million to protect property valued at about $2 million below Eighth Avenue SE on the east side of the river in what is New Bohemia/Oak Hill.

Council member Brian Fagan suggested that maybe that area could be the first to see the coming permanent flood protection when it is built in the years ahead.

The temporary system features a product called a tiger dam, in which water fills bladders, and a product called a Hesco Concertainers, in which sand is used to fill plastic-lined mesh baskets.

The latter was used in Johnson and Des Moines counties last year.

Once the flood forecast is for the Cedar River in Cedar Rapids to reach 20 feet, the city will mobilize the temporary protection. It will protect Time Check, Czech Village and both sides of the river downtown to a river stage measured at a downtown river gauge of 24 feet.

The city twice has had flood water reach 20 feet in its history. The only time it was higher was last June, when the river reached 31.12 feet.

Protecting to 24 feet will protect 830 homes and $21.3 million in property value, consultant Jim Kill, of Stanley Consultants Inc., Muscatine, Iowa, told the council last night.

Kill called that “a good ratio” between the cost of temporary protection and the amount of value being protected.

He said the ratio “validated” the council’s earlier decision to protect to 24 feet. 

Demolitions of flood-wrecked homes in New Bohemia moved too fast for history

In Floods, New Bohemia on February 16, 2009 at 10:46 pm

History matters.

The city of Cedar Rapids is being reminded of that and of just how particular the federal government can be about the past.

The reminder came after the city demolished six flood-wrecked properties in what in recent years has come to be known as the New Bohemia area along and near Third Street SE south of downtown.

After last June’s flood, all six properties were among the 71 that the city tagged with a purple placard in the city’s worst-to-best color system that went from purple to red to yellow to green. A purple placard signified that the property was too dangerous to enter, and so needed to be demolished.

Among the first of the purple properties to come down were six in The New Bohemia area, which – with the help of City Hall – gained national historic stature in recent years as the Bohemian Commercial District. This was the spot to first house immigrants from Bohemia in what today is the Czech Republic who had come to Cedar Rapids in the latter 19th Century to work nearby in what then was the Sinclair meatpacking site.

What the city has come to learn is that it shouldn’t demolish anything in a nationally recognized historic district without first following federal rules related to the historic recognition.

Those rules are part of the National Historic Preservation Act.

In order to comply with the rules of the federal act, the city is among parties that have signed a memorandum of agreement with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, an agreement which requires that information on the historic aspects of the six demolished properties be collected and recorded for future reference.

In addition, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to fund an intensive historic survey of the remaining parts of the Bohemian Commercial District to verify if structures should retain their National Registry eligibility. The FEMA-funded survey also will determine if a National Historic District exists across the Cedar River from the Bohemian Commercial District in Czech Village where the heart of the Czech commercial activity eventually moved.

Vern Zakostelecky, a long-range planning coordinator for the city of Cedar Rapids, said a historic status for Czech Village will give the district access to grants it otherwise would not have access to.

Zakostelecky said the six demolished properties which now will get an historical accounting were at 1308 Second St. SE, 1312 Second St. SE, 1013 Third St. SE, 1019 Third St. SE, 211-213 13th Ave. SE and 1221 Third St. SE.