Post-flood reconstruction and new development has taken place in parts of Cedar Rapids hit hard by high water in June of 2008. Now neighbors in the Time Check Neighborhood along Ellis Blvd NW believe it’s finally their turn.
The Cedar Rapids Planning Department is encouraging neighbors to attend an Ellis Boulevard Area Plan meeting Monday evening. Planners are expected to discuss the establishment of a Viable Business Corridor which would both encourage development along Ellis Blvd NW but also provide a way around rules that limit what can go in areas purchased with federal dollars to prevent future flood damage.
Currently, large parts along Ellis Blvd NW lie within the 100 year plain which means there can be no redevelopment, residential or commercial, on those parcels purchased by the city. Establishing a “business corridor” would allow some development along a narrow strip along Ellis.
Linda Seeger, a neighborhood activist, said the community would like to see small business and residential developments pop up in the cleared areas on either side of Ellis Blvd. NW if it’s possible to establish a “corridor” that would allow redevelopment. Seeger said it still depresses some in the area to see all the empty lots along the boulevard. But these days, she also sees hope.
“Finally, we feel our time has come five years later. Now eyes are turning on Ellis and it’s very positive to see development,” Seeger said.
Seeger said neighbors watched the progress made in the New Bo area of southeast Cedar Rapids, but they don’t want to duplicate the commercial and entertainment area. Rather, they envision a more modern mix of what existed along the boulevard before flooding destroyed many of the buildings. They envision a “live-work” kind of construction with small retail shops on the ground floor with housing above as well as traditional single family or multi-family housing. They don’t want to see large apartment complexes.
Two developments cited as examples are expected to begin construction before October 1st. One by Ahmann Development calls for a four-plex and a five-plex property right along Ellis Blvd with units starting at about $150,000. Another project by Neighborhood Development Corporation will refurbish an old warehouse building for housing.
Joe Ahmann said he expects final council approval for his plans on Tuesday and he must start work before October 1st to claim incentive money.
“We’re willing to make an investment in the area and we’re hoping because of that it will continue and other people will come along and do something as well,” Ahmann said.
The developer said it’s taken this long for private developers to get interested in the boulevard because of some of the uncertainty about what would happen in the area. But he believes his “Ellis Commons” project will fit in with the existing character of the neighborhood while getting in on the ground flood of an area that may be ready to finally take off.