CEDAR RAPIDS — Construction crews were busy Thursday taking the first steps to convert an old metal pole building once home to Quality Chef Foods into the NewBo City Market.
The launch of the construction of the year-round farmers marketon Third Street SE in the heart of the New Bohemia arts and entertainment districtwas helped by a City Council decision to contribute $500,000 in revenue from the city’s local-option sales tax to the market.
The council contribution has brought the market within about $200,000 of its $4.37 million construction budget, which includes a $300,000 operating reserve, said Patrick DePalma, president of the market’s board of directors. The market has received an additional $1.2 million of in-kind city support based on the land value of the city-owned Quality Chef Foods site and demolition of other buildings on it.
Last week’s half-million-dollar grant from the City Council was a shift in City Hall gears from last October when the council agreed with some pause to loan $1.3 million to the market if necessary so the market could show it had sufficient local economic support to qualify for a state Community Attraction & Tourism (CAT) grant. At the time, the council and market representatives said they didn’t expect the market, which was in the midst of a campaign to raise $3 million in private money, would actually need to use the city loan.
The loan guarantee did help. The market won a $750,000 state CAT grant in November.
DePalma said the City Council’s willingness to change its loan to an outright grant will allow the market to open without construction debt.
“It is critical that we move forward with a plan that is viable and sustainable for the long term,” he said.
Mayor Ron Corbett said the City Council now will cancel the loan guarantee to the market in trade for the $500,000 city grant.
He noted that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had provided the city with $547,000 in disaster funds for the city-owned former Quality Chef buildings, which were damaged in the 2008 flood. Of that amount, $187,000 was used to demolish some buildings on the property and the rest went to other city needs.
The City Council, the mayor said, long has put the market at the top of its priority list of projects to fund with disaster dollars. Steering sales-tax revenue to the market meets the requirements for use of the sales tax because it “matches” federal dollars that came to the city for the property, he said.
The market’s DePalma said the city’s $500,000 grant comes at a time when the market’s construction budget had grown from an estimated $3.8 million to $4.37 million (not counting the in-kind value of the land and demolition on the property). The added expense comes from the cost to build a kitchen for the Kirkwood Community College culinary arts program, one of the market’s anchor vendors, and to add vent hoods and dishwashing stations and equipment to attract vendors to the market, DePalma said. A fitness playground also is being added.
NewBo City Market is expected to open in late fall.