City Hall is working to bolster the prospects for the commercial district across the Cedar River from downtown Cedar Rapids that is being called by its historic name, Kingston, as well as West Village.
This week, the City Council agreed to the creation of the Third Avenue SW Historic District and, for now, agreed to set its boundaries tightly to encompass just both sides of Third Avenue SW from First to Third streets SW across from downtown.
The city also has hired a firm to conduct an intensive historic survey of the district with the expectation that the district will secure a place on the National Register of Historic Places in about a year, Brad Larson, a planner with the city, reported on Thursday.
In addition, the council this week agreed to seek proposals from developers to buy four flood-damaged commercial properties in the Third Avenue SW Historic District. The four — which the city now owns as part of the flood-recovery buyout program — are the former Gatto Building, 102 Third Ave. SW; a former office building, 120 Third Ave. SW; the former Acme Graphics building, 207 Third Ave. SW; and the former Barron Motors building, 222 Third Ave. SW.
“If we get good proposals, … that will really be a start (for the district),” Joe O’Hern, the city’s executive director of development services and its flood-recovery chief, told the council’s Flood Recovery Committee on Thursday.
The committee took an additional action, recommending that the city demolish three commercial properties just outside the historic district to make way for redevelopment. Those are the former Emerson Lock & Key building, 426 First St. SW; a former law office building, 121 Third St. SW; and an office building and apartment building at 100 First St. SW.
O’Hern said an individual or individuals had expressed interest in redeveloping the three properties, but in each instance that interest has been withdrawn, he told the Flood Recovery Committee.
O’Hern noted that the former Emerson building and the former law office building are islands surrounded by newly empty lots where flood-damaged properties now have been bought out and demolished.
Council member Don Karr, the committee chairman, said he had seen a developer’s plans for the area of the former Emerson building that make demolishing it seem like a good idea.
The most significant development in the Third Avenue SW Historic District to date has been the recently-announced plan by local developer Fred Timko, who is purchasing the historic Louis Sullivan-designed bank and office tower next to it for redevelopment at 101 Third Ave. SW. Timko also plans to build a new six-story residential condominium project next to the bank on First Street SW.
This area on the west side of the Cedar River across from downtown is also among areas that are being looked at to build a new casino, developers of the casino have said.
Casino backers first must collect signatures to force a Linn County vote on gaming, and if successful, they then must convince the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission to grant a gaming license in Linn County.