CEDAR RAPIDS — Heaps of salvaged metal no longer will sit next to the city-owned $8 million amphitheater that’s being built along the Cedar River across from downtown.
The City Council last night agreed to spend $1.5 million to buy the Knutson Metal Co. property at 525 and 533 H St. SW. The City Assessor’s Office values the property at $136,897, but Mayor Ron Corbett said the price includes a financial consideration because the purchase is prompting Thomas Knutson to close the business.
The city originally moved to buy the property in the mid-1990s, when the nearby police station was being built, but officials decided it would cost too much. City Council member Don Karr said making the purchase then would have cost a lot less than it does today.
“Now we’re spending more money for it than we probably should, but government should have taken care of that years ago,” he said. “Having a scrapyard in the middle of downtown Cedar Rapids … You show me a city in Iowa, the Midwest or America that has a scrapyard on a river bank in the middle of their city. That’s ridiculous.”
The Knutson site is between the amphitheater and a park area next to Diagonal Drive SW at the Eighth Avenue bridge that will be used for parking, vendors and restrooms. The land buy means a riverfront walkway can be built to connect the two.
The Knutson property features a 16,000-square-foot building that was constructed in 1885 for the American Manufacturing Co., a maker of wood gunstocks and other handcrafted wood products, according to information from Cedar Rapids historian Mark Stoffer Hunter.
The Historic Preservation Commission lists the building as one of the 11 most endangered in Cedar Rapids, and Corbett said officials will explore options for its future.
Maura Pilcher, a member of Save CR Heritage and former chairwoman of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, on Tuesday said the Knutson building should be saved and renovated as is the expected plan for a second riverfront historic building nearby, the Mott Building.
“If you have one of those buildings by itself, it doesn’t mean as much,” she said. “But having two buildings next to each other like that gives an opportunity for development in a unique way. Those buildings are the old-school industrial buildings that we couldn’t build again with all the money in the world, really.”
Pilcher said residential opportunities like loft apartments and condos that attract people to a downtown tend to go in renovated historical properties like the Knutson and Mott ones.
“With the fact that the amphitheater is going to be over there, I think there’s just great opportunity,” she said.