Cedar Rapids Council readies revitalization tax breaks

The Gazette Sept 22, 1994
By Lonnie Zlngula

Council readies revitalization tax breaks
Hearings planned for redevelopment of downtown buildings

Tax breaks being sought by four property owners could fuel redevelopment in Cedar Rapids‘ inner city.

The City Council on Wednesday scheduled a pair of public hearings for Oct. 5 to consider establishing urban revitalization areas at the Hach Building at First Street and Fourth Avenue SE and three connected buildings on Third Avenue SE between Third Street and the Fourth Street railroad tracks.

A hearing on a similar request by the Metro Area Housing Program (MAHP) for its Osada project on a southeast city block bounded by Ninth and 10th avenues and Second and Third streets will be held Wednesday.

With tax abatements available through urban revitalization, the projects would be taxed on about 56 percent of their improved value over a 10-year period. After that, the owners would be taxed on the full value of the improvements.

Under procedures spelled out by state law, the council must first hold a public hearing before deciding whether to authorize the respective property owners to prepare the documents necessary to apply for the urban revitalization designation. That will be followed by a second public hearing on the formal plans for each project before final action is taken several weeks from now.

The 111-year old Hach Building will be converted to a mixed-use development with underground parking, a ground-floor restaurant and 21 condominiums or apartments on the upper floors, explained architect Scott Olson. The restaurant, which will be new to the area, will include outdoor seating and will be designed to blend with a proposed riverwalk extension on the eastern banks of the Cedar River behind the Hach Building, Olson said.

The landmark building, which now houses a janitorial supplies firm and retail paper and party goods shop and been approved for placement on the National Register of Historic Places, is owned by the family of Robert Hach Sr. Construction, at an estimated cost of $2.5 million, is targeted to begin late this fall, Olson said.

Owners of the so-called Foreman & Clark, Kubias and ARCO buildings downtown are teaming up on a one- half-block renovation project. The buildings have 62,000 square feet of, combined space, about 40 percent of which is now vacant, said John Dusek- of Armstrong Race Realty, owner of. the ARCO building.

Plans call for the remodeled buildings to provide ground-floor retail space with offices on the upper floors. The interior skywalk now connecting the three buildings will also be redesigned, Dusek said.
Cost estimates for the project were unavailable. Dusek said construction will likely begin this fall and continue through next summer. The Foreman & Clark and Kubias buildings are owned by the Esther and Robert Armstrong Trust.

MAHP — a private, non-profit community housing agency — plans to renovate the former Witwer Grocer Co. warehouse at Ninth Avenue and Third Street SE into 65 affordable apartments. MAHP has received a $1 million federal grant to apply toward the $5 million renovation, the bulk of which will be financed through tax credits and bonds.

The agency is also exploring renovation of the former Monroe School property next door to the warehouse along 10th Avenue SE between Second and Third streets.

The Monroe building, constructed in 1873, was Cedar Rapids‘ third permanent school. The Witwer building was originally used as a warehouse by Me Too supermarket founder Weaver Witwer, but has been vacant for several years.