A local developer’s year-old plans are moving ahead to open a restaurant where the flood-damaged A & W Family Restaurant had been, in the heart of a piece of Ellis Boulevard NW that the neighborhood hopes to see become a thriving commercial corridor.
Joe O’Hern, the city’s flood recovery and reinvestment director, said that the state of Iowa’s has approved developer Baron Stark’s request to allow the former A & W location to be redeveloped, even though it was purchased with federal flood-recovery buyout money and part of it sits in the 100-year flood plain.
The state action on the former A & W property at 1132 Ellis Blvd. NW, and the lot next door at 1126 Ellis Blvd. NW, follows on the heels of a larger state agreement with the city last month to allow such buyout properties to be redeveloped if they are historic or in “viable commercial corridors.”
The A & W property has been deemed historic and it also sits in one of four Cedar Rapids spots that the city and state have identified as viable commercial corridors. The others are New Bohemia, Czech Village and the area across the Cedar River from downtown.
The City Council on Tuesday is slated to approve special deeds to allow Stark to take possession of the two Ellis Boulevard NW properties so renovation and expansion of the existing building can begin.
Earlier this year, the council agreed to a development agreement with Stark of Stark Real Estate Holdings Inc.
Stark has said he intends to restore the restaurant to its historic, carhop past and to add a new section to the structure so customers can eat inside or on an outdoor patio.
The earlier-approved development agreement establishes a purchase price of $51,500 based on the two properties’ appraised values and requires three things of Stark: to pay closing costs and appraisal costs; to set aside a sum in escrow for demolition should he not follow through on the project; and to invest a minimum of $278,000 in the renovation.
Richard Luther, a development consultant with Creative Development Solutions, has been working with Stark on the project.
Stark is ready to finalize the property acquisition and get to work with the hope of opening in the spring, Luther said.
Stark, whose office is located in Fairfax, could not be reached.