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An adaptive reuse project to bring the former Dragon restaurant building in Cedar Rapids back to life was among several housing projects receiving support from the Cedar Rapids City Council Tuesday. The council unanimously approved a resolution of support for an adaptive reuse project for the building, at 329 Second Ave. SE, for which developers will be seeking Housing Workforce Tax Credits through the Iowa Economic Development Authority, a program requiring the city to provide local match funds through the city’s Local Match – Economic Development Program. The project involves the rehabilitation of the historic 14,400-square-foot building, which has sat unoccupied since 2018 when its most recent tenant, Hazzard County Saloon, moved across the street into the former Downtown Tire building. The project, comprising a $4.2 million investment, is being pursued by Aspect Investments, an entity of prominent local developer Steve Emerson. Plans call for commercial space on the first floor and 13 apartments on the second and third floors, including five studio units, seven one-bedroom units and one two-bedroom unit. The city’s local match program provides a 10-year, 100% reimbursement of the project’s increased value. Estimates indicate the project will generate $514,000 in property taxes over the 10-year period, of which $380,000 would be reimbursed. The project will adhere to historic rehabilitation standards, Cedar Rapids economic development coordinator Scott Mather told the council. City leaders praised Mr. Emerson’s former Dragon restaurant building project, reviving the building at a prominent downtown Cedar Rapids location. “Some of us can remember The Dragon back in the day, but it has languished for 30 years,” councilmember Dale Todd said. “Being able to maintain the historical context of the building, I think, is a huge win for all of us.” Councilmember Scott Overland said the condition of the building’s upper floors is likely “not good” and that the building hasn’t seen significant investment “as long as I’ve lived in Cedar Rapids.” “But if you look at the exterior of it, it's very interesting brickwork,” he said, “so it'd be great to get that not only in great shape in the downtown area, but also provide some additional affordable housing.” “This is courageous development,” Mayor Tiffany O’Donnell added. “Certainly this is a heavy lift, and it aligns so much with what we're trying to do as a city, talking about what endures. This is going to be character that's consistent with our downtown, so I applaud Aspect Investments for taking this on.” The building, originally dubbed the “Muskwaki Block,” was built in 1897 for lawyer Benjamin Franklin Heins as an investment property. It was designed by proiment Cedar Rapids architect William Fulkerson as a three-story commercial building with a stone base, brick cladding with stone details, and arched window openings. To advertise the building, developers used an adaptation of Meskwaki, as a tribute to the local Meskwaki American Indian tribe. The first story was divided into three storefronts that were occupied by a variety of tenants over the years, including grocery stores and restaurants. The Dragon, the city’s first Chinese restaurant, occupied the corner space for about 55 years. Offices were located on the upper stories. The space was converted to apartments in the 1930s. The council also approved a resolution of support for a $14.5 housing project at 3851 River Ridge Dr. NE, on the site of a former UnityPoint office building that was destroyed by fire in April 2021. Plans call for a four-story residential building with 104 units on the top three floors, ranging from studio to three-bedroom units, and enclosed parking on the first floor. The project is being developed by TBD Investments, an entity of local developer Dave Drown, the same company that owned the UnityPoint office building. A third housing project also received a resolution of support from the council. The $1.5 million plan will convert a 7,000-square-foot commercial warehouse building at 550 Oakland Road NE, most recently used by Home Appliance, into 12 market-rate apartment units, including eight one-bedroom units and four two-bedroom units. That project is being developed by West Side Wolf Pack IV LLC, an entity of local developer Kevin Nanke.