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In the wake of a now-abandoned plan to turn the former Colonial Centre building in Cedar Rapids’ Wellington Heights neighborhood into a community resource center and emergency shelter, the Cedar Rapids City Council has approved a plan to use $2.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to transform the long-vacant building into an affordable housing complex. The adaptive reuse plan will transform the former Colonial Centre at 1500 Second Ave. SE, which has sat empty for more than a decade and been vandalized several times, into 25 affordable housing units, five of which will be fully accessible for residents with mobility challenges, city development director Jennifer Pratt told the council at its Nov. 8 meeting. The exterior design of the Colonial Centre affordable housing project will be consistent with the standards of the area’s historic district, Ms. Pratt said. “That is an important part of this project,” she told the council, adding that the project will be “pedestrian friendly in keeping with the character of the neighborhood.” Once the renovation project is completed, the city plans to issue a Request for Qualification to transfer ownership of the property to a nonprofit organization, “ensuring ongoing (compliance) with performance measures and accountability.” City council member Dale Todd said he was concerned there wasn’t enough money allocated for the project’s $5 million budget, but Ms. Pratt noted the project’s ARPA appropriation is being supplemented by nearly $2.5 million in other state and federal grant funds. Earlier this year, the city’s Planning Commission rejected a $2.6 million proposal to repurpose the building for community use, including an emergency homeless shelter in inclement months, after the plan met with opposition from the Wellington Heights Neighborhood Association. The council also took action on several other development projects, including:
- Approving a development agreement and the first reading of a rezoning ordinance for the $36 million redevelopment of the former Loftus Lumber site in the 900 block of Third St. SE. The five-story, mixed-use commercial and residential development will be built on 2.3 acres and include a total of 186 market-rate residential units, including a mix of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units, as well as 10,500 square feet of available commercial space on the first floor and on-site public and private parking. The project’s developer, DOMOV and local developer Dave Drown, is receiving financial incentives from the city, including reimbursement of 100% of the increased tax revenue from the project up to a maximum of $6.4 million or 20 total payments. Plans call for construction to begin in the spring of 2023, with completion slated for October 2024.
- Approving the final two readings of the rezoning ordinance for a building formerly owned by Alliant Energy at 1017 12th Ave. SW. Linn County has purchased the building and intends to use it for storage and as a temporary overflow shelter for the homeless during winter months.
- Approving an ordinance establishing a Central Reinvestment District, under the Iowa Reinvestment Act, for development projects along the west side of the Cedar River in downtown Cedar Rapids, including the First and First West project, the proposed 5-in-1 dam bypass river recreation channel and the festival grounds project south of the First and First development. The city’s application for the reinvestment district was approved by the Iowa Economic Development Authority in July. Under the program’s guidelines, instead of state sales and hotel/motel taxes from the developments going to the state, the city will receive those revenues in quarterly payments, starting in January 2025, until a maximum of $9 million is received.
- Renewing a lease agreement with 124 Investment Corporation for calendar year 2023 for continued use of office space at 1233 First Ave. SE. The space has been used as a substation for the Cedar Rapids Police Department for the past five years, and will continue to be used for that purpose, according to the agreement. The lease provides for payments of $770 per month, plus an option for an additional one-year lease at $800 per month.