Already a subscriber? Log in
- Unparalleled business coverage of the Iowa City / Cedar Rapids corridor.
- Immediate access to subscriber-only content on our website.
- 26 issues per year delivered digitally, in print or both.
- Support locally owned and operated journalism.
Plans for relocating Sunline’s auto salvage operations to Hawkeye Downs and expanding Lil’ Drug Store’s facility are moving ahead, while plans for an age-restricted gated housing development are on hold in Cedar Rapids. At its Jan. 25 meeting, the Cedar Rapids City Council approved the first reading of an ordinance changing the zoning for the Hawkeye Downs property from light industrial to general industrial. Under the proposal, the majority of the 88-acre site would continue to comprise an auto racing facility, convention hall and storage buildings, but nine acres on the property’s northeast side would be converted to serve as the relocated site of the Sunline auto salvage yard, which currently operates just to the north of Hawkeye Downs. Roger Cassill, a local auto dealer who owns both Hawkeye Downs and Sunline, said that when he purchased the 40-acre Sunline property about a year ago, he intended to clean up the site and convert it to a late-model facility. In fact, he said he’s in “a due diligence period with a large national company on the sale of the Sunline property,” though he declined to name the company. The pending sale, he said, has merged well with his plans to move the Sunline auto salvage operation to the Hawkeye Downs site. The new salvage site, he said, will occupy a much smaller footprint than the current site, enclosing most operations under an 85-by-300 foot building and incorporating a nine-foot-tall solid fence with exterior landscaping and a 100-foot buffer from other streets in the area. Mr. Cassill said the new salvage yard’s location will help with the operation’s aesthetics. With the current Sunline site, “you drive over the viaduct and look down over the top of a whole bunch of junk cars. So just not being above it is going to really help out a bunch.” “The screening question is a very valid deal, and it's important to me as well, nor not only for aesthetics, but for the safety of my people and (to keep) people (from) getting into the salvage yard. The police department ends up at a salvage yard a fair amount when it doesn't have proper fencing.” He also said that while he’s reduced the current Sunline operation to less than 20 acres, sales have increased by over $1 million in the past year, and increasing the number of newer cars on the site will help further decrease its footprint. The net result, he said, will be a more visually appealing operation that will boost Hawkeye Downs’ bottom line. “Anybody that knows me knows I don't do stuff that I'm not going to be proud of,” he said. “We'll be proud of this as well. And it'll also really help the Hawkeye Downs property. We need to bring in a little more lease income into that property to sustain using the race track and the facilities that are there now.” Council member Scott Olson, who serves as treasurer on the nonprofit Hawkeye Downs board of directors but has no financial interest in the property’s ownership, said he wants to see the property improved overall. “One of my goals in getting involved with Hawkeye Downs was to make the improvements to make the exhibit hall, racetrack and the rest of the grounds be something we're all proud of,” he said. “It's just gone down, down and down over the years.” “Without additional revenue, Hawkeye Downs will probably not exist any more, either for the exhibit hall or the race track,” he later added. “I know that, I’ve been involved in trying to find ways to generate more revenue. Roger has a plan that I think has a chance of being very successful. I know that's a good sign, and some of the things he's doing are things that we've needed for a long time.” Council member Ashley Vanorny, who serves the council district that encompasses Hawkeye Downs, asked that the rezoning plan be tabled while the city studies the area’s future more broadly. “I certainly have an appreciation for what the salvage yard does, she said, noting that she’s purchased parts from salvage yards for her own vehicles in the past. “There is an environmental component of being able to reuse and not just completely do away with cars that need some repair. With that in mind, though, I think there's a much broader conversation that's happening here about the future use of Hawkeye Downs. There's been a lot of moving pieces. We've talked about Hawkeye Downs, and there's been some things that were proposed that fell through or changed quite drastically. I personally don't feel like I have enough information here. I think there is a broader conversation that we need to have about more comprehensive plans before I feel secure in voting on this.” Council member Tyler Olson, however, moved to approve the first reading, noting that the council wasn’t voting on the specifics of the salvage yard proposal. The site plan itself will require a conditional use permit from the Board of Adjustment, which will consider, among other things, whether the proposal fits with the city’s comprehensive plan and is compatible with neighboring landowners. The council voted to approve the first reading of the rezoning ordinance on a 6-2 vote, with Ms. Vanorny and council member Ann Poe voting against the reading’s approval. The rezoning will return to the council for a second and possible third consideration at their Feb. 14 meeting. The council also:
- Authorized an amended development agreement with Lil’ Drug Store Products for an expansion of the company’s headquarters facility at 9300 Earhart Lane SW. The company is planning a 41,300-square-foot expansion of its warehouse facility, bringing the facility’s total size to 145,300 square feet. Under the amended agreement, the company’s total investment in the facility will rise from $12 million to $16.8 million, with a minimum of 60 employees. The expansion is needed because Lil’ Drug Store Products recently acquired an Illinois company and is consolidating that company’s business operations to its Cedar Rapids facility.
- Approved a development agreement with 1395 Stamy Road LLC, which plans to redevelop property at 2738 Edgewood Rd. SW, just north of the Westdale Town Center. An existing strip mall at the site, which formerly housed a movie theater, optical dispensary and fitness center, among other businesses, was demolished last year. The company plans a new 17,000-square-foot commercial building at the site, with a minimum investment of $5.4 million. Construction is set to begin soon and be completed by August. The project qualifies for standard incentives, including a 10-year, 50% rebate of increased taxes generated by the project. At least 15 full-time employees are to be employed at the project on or after Nov. 1, 2025.
- Tabled consideration of a rezoning proposal for a 12.5-acre, age-restricted gated residential community at 6600 Gibson Dr. NE, just north of Viola Gibson Elementary School. The proposal, which was recommended for approval by the City Planning Commission Jan. 5, calls for construction of 36 single-family homes on a single parcel, along with an associated clubhouse. The request would rezone the property from Suburban Residential Low Single Unit District, to Suburban Residential Low Single Unit District with a Planned Unit Development (PUD) Overlay. Several council members expressed concerns about the project’s compatibility with the surrounding neighborhood and its impact on traffic patterns in the area, among other issues.