For all of the progress made in the Czech Village/New Bohemia Main Street District since the Flood of 2008, much remains to be done.
Proponents point to major steps forward in the reopening of the expanded National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library and historic CSPS Hall, as well as new venues such as the NewBo City Market and several other businesses and restaurants.
Still, residential neighborhoods and industrial sites have given way to barren swaths in the district, which encompasses blocks of southeast and southwest Cedar Rapids, south of downtown along the Cedar River.
To keep the momentum moving forward, the Main Street District is crafting a revitalization strategy with the help of several partners.
The first step is a public workshop, set for Saturday, Dec. 1, at the former Joens Bros. building, 59 16th Ave. SW. An open house forum is planned from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“We’re trying to get a lot of input about what people want to see this district become,” said Jennifer Pruden, executive director of the Main Street District, a state designation granted in 2009, in part to help with flood recovery.
Pruden said the revitalization strategy will guide future business growth and development within the historic district.
OPN Architects will facilitate the public workshop – jointly sponsored by the museum and Main Street – and help formulate the plan.
Pruden said alongside the plan, consultants from Main Street Iowa and Downtown Professionals Network will conduct an in-depth analysis of market trends and demographic information to guide business recruitment.
Vacant buildings, including the Joens Bros. site, still wait to be filled.
Last spring, the museum purchased the building, also known as Kuncl Mall, with the intention to sell or lease the space.
The building, with 70 linear feet of storefront space, could have been demolished had it gone through the city’s flood buyout program, with an uncertain chance of rebuilding on the site, museum president and CEO Gail Naughton has said.
Signs of momentum mark both sides of the river. The expanded museum, relocated to higher ground in Czech Village, celebrated its grand reopening last summer with more than 14,000 visitors.
The NewBo City Market opened in late October in a former flooded warehouse on Third Street SE.
More than 20,000 people crowded the market’s bakeries, restaurants and other vendors during opening weekend.
Many other buildings remain in limbo.
Homes with boarded windows line segments of Second Street SE and just a handful of houses dot the previously bustling neighborhood next to Czech Village.
The former Sinclair meatpacking plant in New Bohemia has become one of the major pieces of the puzzle.
Also known at various times as Wilson & Co. and Farmstead Foods, the Cedar Rapids plant previously employed 2,500 workers and was the city’s largest employer.
Chain-link fence surrounds the site where buildings were demolished after the flood.
A group of investors hoping to bring casino gambling to the city singled out the area as one of three potential locations.
Pruden said the revitalization plan will examine numerous possibilities and she encouraged participants to “think outside the box.”
Soccer fields, parks, softball diamonds or other recreation amenities could be needed, or businesses, arts and entertainment could be recruited to the area, she said, citing examples.
The strategy, set to be completed in the spring, follows a Southside Investment Board plan for the New Bohemia area, but Pruden said the Main Street board wanted to include Czech Village and add public input.
Private donations, along with Main Street funding and services donated by OPN or future grants, will cover the $100,000 cost of the studies and plan.
A second public workshop will be 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jan. 12 at CSPS, 1103 Third St. SE.