Disaster Recovery in Cedar Rapids

The waters may have receded in Cedar Rapids long ago, but the work to rehabilitate and rebuild continues in earnest. Since the summer of 2008, Preservation Iowa has been working with the Cedar Rapids Historic Preservation Commission and historic building owners desperate to get repairs completed. Preservarion Iowa’s Rod Scott has been on the ground in Cedar Rapids providing technical, practical, and emotional assistance along the way.

Download a PDF of Rod’s PowerPoint summarizing one year of disaster recovery in the Czech Village:

Progress Report Fall 2009

Learn below about Preservation Iowa’s effort to assess damage to sacred places and to expand the existing Bohemian Commercial Historic District to include the Czech Village, across the river.

Consultation on Federal Undertakings

In addition to working with several historic building owners to complete state and federal historic tax credit applications, Preservation Iowa has been helping identify historic properties in flood-affected neighborhoods. As part of that consultation, we obtained the current list of historic properties in Cedar Rapids in a Microsoft Excel format. Download the spreadsheet below:

Cedar Rapids eligible properties Excel spreadsheet

Both FEMA and HUD invited Preservation Iowa to be a consulting party on federal undertakings related to 2008 disaster recovery. This consultation is required under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. As part of the consultation, Preservation Iowa obtained copies of architectural survey reports produced by The Louis Berger Group for the City of Cedar Rapids. These reports, linked below, identify historic properties and historic districts within the neighborhoods being considered as part of the FEMA and HUD buyout process. Many of reports are quite large, so in some cases, the photos have been split into a separate document.

Cedar Rapids Sacred Places Survey Completed

During the summer of 2009, Preservation Iowa enlisted Zak Hingst from Iowa City to help assess flood damage to Cedar Rapids sacred places. In his report to Preservation Iowa, Zak writes:

The Flood of 2008 seriously impacted the faith community in Cedar Rapids. Nearly thirty churches and ministries were affected by the flood, to varying degrees. … Not only are these places vital to the community, but many of them are also housed in indispensable historic buildings. … Most of the faith groups affected by the flood are somewhere in the middle of the road to recovery. Some are in limbo, delaying decisions about the future of their buildings and their congregations pending decisions by the city about where and how to rebuild.

Reconstruction costs are daunting, especially for churches that own multiple buildings. Compounding this problem is the fact that most of the churches—as with most property owners in Cedar Rapids—did not have flood insurance. Even for those lucky enough to have insurance, construction costs have far outstripped payments. Thankfully the federal government instituted a policy change after Hurricane Katrina allowing FEMA recovery funds to go to community service organizations even if they have religious affiliations. … Churches themselves are still exempt, though. Even those already recognized as historic and listed on the National Register of Historic Places … are not eligible for federal funding or [federal] tax credits; they must rely on donations and volunteers.

You can read Zak’s full summary and view his assessment of recovery for Cedar Rapids Sacred Places on our Sacred Places initiative page.

Preservation Iowa Begins Architectural Salvage Operation in Cedar Rapids

Early in 2009, we embarked on a new venture to assist the flood-ravaged community of Cedar Rapids in developing a sustainable architectural salvage and recycling operation. The operation was started with the guidance of Roger Gwinup of Iowa City, who for years has worked with Iowa communities to establish similar operations. Assistance was provided by the new AmeriCorps–Green Team members from Cedar Rapids, Cedar Falls, and Waterloo, as well as many private citizens of Cedar Rapids.

We salvaged four large non-flood damaged old houses of their architectural materials and are preparing to open a storefront to distribute these items with special emphasis on assisting flood victims first. Old multipanel doors, trim, and thousands of feet of original wood flooring are now being made ready for sale. The slideshow pictures were taken by Cortney Schiappa of Green AmeriCorps Cedar Falls during the last days of the salvage operation.