Gail Naughton can see the planned site of the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library from the window of her new second-story office in Czech Village.
“You get a visual sense of what it’s going to be,” said Naughton, the museum’s president. “We feel like this is another important part of the recovery for Cedar Rapids.”
It’s been a long road for the historical business district on 16th Avenue SW, one of the areas hardest hit by the June 2008 flood.
The relocated museum and its addition won’t open until late 2012, not far from its current site along the Cedar River.
In the meantime, many hope the museum opening its offices and a new flood exhibit in the restored Kosek’s Dime & Dollar store, 87 16th Ave. SW, will help revive Czech Village.
Museum staff moved into their new quarters this week and the exhibit, “Rising Above: The Story of a People and the Flood,” opens in April.
“It will definitely be a boost, no doubt,” said Nancy Schmuecker, who owns the Merle Norman store and works for Joens Bros. Interiors in Kuncl Mall, 59 16th Ave. SW.
Schmuecker said museum visitors should increase foot traffic for Maria’s Tea Room, which opened in Kuncl Mall two months before the flood and reopened in 2009. Other business owners hope for the same.
Restaurants and shops surrounding the new museum site bustled with customers on St. Patrick’s Day and should see the same as Czech Village celebrates St. Joseph’s Day with a parade today.
The museum will hopefully extend those spurts as tourists visit the exhibit, said Robyn Rieckhoff, executive director of Czech Village/New Bohemia Main Street District. Rieckhoff calls the museum’s return a “clear indication that we are recovering after the flood.”
That boost, however, will be too late for some.
The Vault, a women’s clothing store that opened in August in a former tattoo parlor at 99 16th Ave. SW, survived less than a year before closing its doors.
Next door to the new museum, the future is uncertain for another new business, The Bohemian, a cafe, bakery and pub that opened one year ago at 95 16th Ave. SW.
Although business was good, owner Bridget Casey closed the restaurant for repairs on Dec. 31 and doesn’t know if it will reopen.
Deb Christensen, owner of Art 2 M Broidery, 92 16th Ave. SW, and vice president of the Czech Village Association, has watched work progress in the former Polehna’s Meat Market next to her shop and other venues throughout Czech Village.
“I feel like it’s bringing hope to the village,” she said of the museum’s opening. “We’d sure like to have more people down here.”
The 9,600-square-foot store has been transformed for the museum with basement classroom, office and storage space, a store that will offer Czech ornaments, beer shampoo — a hot item from Prague — and other souvenirs, and the exhibit and upstairs office space.
Funding for the $2 million project was through the state I-JOBS program, donations from the Czech Republic and corporate and individual gifts.
Museum curator Stefanie Kohn and Jeff Elliff of Elliff Design Studios this week painted a “flood line” on a replica home that will be a focal point of the exhibition. The goal is to re-create the flood experience, so visitors have a better understanding of the disaster, Naughton said.
Just outside the back door, flooded homes are slated for demolition.
“As signs of the flood fade away, this will be here,” Naughton said. “That’s what a museum does. We need to remember these things as a community — to mourn the losses and celebrate the progress.”