Private dollars fuel a building boom

CBJ Editorial

The Corridor had a rip-roaring multi-billion dollar construction boom after the floods of 2008. Much of that came from federal or insurance money delegated to flood-impacted areas and facilities associated with the University of Iowa, such as Hancher Auditorium, the federal courthouse, the DoubleTree by Hilton, NewBo City Market and countless others.

Since then, the construction boom across the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Corridor has spread its wings, becoming the broadest our area has seen in a generation. All across the Corridor from Marion to Coralville to Cedar Rapids to Tiffin from Hiawatha to Iowa City and everywhere in between is an unprecedented construction boom funded primarily through private investment.

The secret about the region and its boundless opportunities are quickly becoming not such a secret anymore.

A recent developer’s luncheon held at the Cedar Rapids Area Metro Economic Alliance was the largest since years before the 2008 flood.

Out-of-state developers have been moving into the Iowa City market for several years. Now developers from across the Corridor and across the country have also found their way to Cedar Rapids.

Mike Whalen with the Heart of America’s Group based in Moline, Illinois, is investing more than $50 million in the redevelopment of the former Guarantee Bank Building and nearby properties to open two hotels in downtown Cedar Rapids, preserving a historic bank property.

SC Bodner Company, a family-owned multifamily developer based in Indianapolis is working with the city of Cedar Rapids on plans for a $32 million, five-story structure with 184 apartments, a 222-space parking garage and a tall stack of amenities including a courtyard pool, rooftop patio, workout facility and bike shop that will fill the so-called Banjo Block in downtown Cedar Rapids.

Interestingly, SC Bodner used statistical analysis to identify the most vibrant markets in which to invest and decided to visit Cedar Rapids through an analysis of some 135 mid-sized and smaller metro markets in the eastern half of the United States.

“A couple things really attracted us,” said Mike Klein, director of development for SC Bodner. “We felt it was perfect timing for a project of the scale and type we’re proposing to kind of take things to the next level. We go to a lot of cities similar to Cedar Rapids, and in visiting with the folks from the city, everyone from (City Manager) Jeff Pomeranz to the Metro Economic Alliance to the Community Development staff were just great. They have it together and they’re all working on the same page.”

Local developers might not appreciate the increased competition, but we’re confident that this will force everyone to step up their game and should only make the market more vibrant. Each of these new developments—many of them in downtown areas—will continue to make the Corridor that much more attractive to talented individuals and families. This is all good news for the region.