City to put old downtown library up for sale

Rick Smith
Published: April 23 2010 | 6:26 pm - Updated: 30 March 2014 | 11:38 pm in
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The City Council on Tuesday will put the empty, flood-damaged downtown library on the sale block.

Two potential buyers have been looking at the property – TrueNorth insurance and financial services company, which has agreed to leave its building on Fourth Avenue SE to make way for the new library; and an unnamed purchaser represented by Larry Sharp of Sharp and Co. Realtors.

Mayor Ron Corbett said on Friday that the city must wait 30 days after Tuesday’s announcement before it can hold a public hearing and sell the building.

Corbett said the City Council would likely assess a potential buyer’s plans for the building in addition to how much the buyer might be willing to pay.

Corbett used the example of one prospective buyer who was willing to pay $600,000 for the building but intended to hold on to as a speculative venture and another willing to pay $200,000 but intended to use it to house 200 people in offices. The council might look more favorably on the latter, he said.

Randy Rings, general counsel for TrueNorth, on Friday said the former library site remains one of the options that the 120-employee TrueNorth is looking at. Cost, the availability of parking and unanswered questions about a new system of flood walls and levees are all matters TrueNorth is trying to sort out, he said.

One plus of the old library building, Rings said, is that it would give TrueNorth the opportunity to be part of the solution for the new library and the old library as well.

He said the firm has gotten different pieces of advice about the building. Some have told the firm it is in great shape, some have said the firm should add to it and others have suggested tearing it down.

“So our options appear to be all over the place,” he said.

In the event TrueNorth bought the building and moved into it, Rings said the company “would dress the building up.”

Realtor Larry Sharp said on Friday he has an unnamed buyer for the former library with “a proposal ready right now.”

Sharp, like Rings, said parking remained a problem for the site, though both are aware that the Cedar Rapids Downtown District and City Hall would like to see a new parking ramp built on Second Street SE between Sixth and Seventh avenues SE near the former library.

“It’s like a fort,” Sharp said of the old library. “It appears to be structurally sound.”

The building will need a new heating and air-conditioning system and new flooring and electrical work, he noted. He said flood insurance can help protect against another disaster.

The old library’s spot on First Street SE, just up the street from the new federal courthouse now under construction, will be a perfect location in the years ahead as the city recovers from the flood, Sharp said.

At next Tuesday’s council meeting, the council also is slated to discuss the demolition of the flood-damaged First Street parking ramp and the flood-damaged Quality Chef buildings on Third Street SE in New Bohemia.

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