NOTE: To voice your thoughts on whether the city should allow the homes to be relocated, the Cedar Rapids City Manager’s Office can be contacted at: 319-286-5080 or email@example.com
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — The Cedar Rapids City Council has voted to move forward with plans to remove homes along Ellis Boulevard NW for flood protection.
All of the homes were restored after the unprecedented 2008 flood and many have been in the same families for generations, noted two members of the public who spoke during the March 14, 2023, City Council meeting.
“To you, these are a project,” Ajai Dittmar told the council. “To us, these are our family homes. You want to take them by force.”
Dittmar, whose home is among those the city is targeting to remove, noted that one resident had lived the entire 74 years of his life in his home along the Cedar River and didn’t want to move.
“You have the power,” she said, pointing out an item in the agenda that noted the council could opt to reconfigure the flood control system, rather than use eminent domain to acquire the properties. “You don’t have to do this. You have a choice.”
Rather than voting on each of the seven homes that were included in the March 14 meeting, all were listed on the council’s consent agenda; typically routine business items approved with one motion. The council unanimously passed the consent agenda without discussion.
Kathy Potts, who lives in southwest Cedar Rapids, but has been advocating for the neighborhood, asked why the homes were listed on the consent agenda, and questioned whether any of the council members had talked to the residents the city is displacing.
The husband of one homeowner recently died, she said, with the trauma exacerbated by the widow’s forthcoming loss of their home.
Potts pointed to the city’s need for affordable housing and questioned what will become of the homes.
Save CR Heritage, a nonprofit that works to preserve the city’s historic resources, years ago advocated for moving the homes if the city needed to provide flood protection.
Rita Rasmussen, real estate services manager for the city, said in an email March 14 that “repurposing existing structures to a new location is always a good idea.”
“Depending on the integrity of the structures, the City may consider this disposition alternative after acquiring the properties,” she wrote, though nothing has yet been done to move forward with the process of relocating the homes.
The seven homes — at 1701, 1841, 1855, 1861, 1865, 1867 and 1925 Ellis Blvd. NW — have been dwarfed in recent years by a high-rise condominium built in 2019 along the river.
One three-bedroom, three bath unit in the building recently sold for $521,200.
The building, Ellis Landings, 1871 Ellis Blvd. NW, is touted as being situated on the Cedar River with spectacular views of the river and Ellis Park, and comes with a Property Tax Abatement.
Homes the city is acquiring in this round range from $108,000 to $189,000, with the council also approving relocation costs of $5,000 to $48,000.
Most of the homes were built between 1905 and 1928, according to the City Assessor, with one built in 1940.
In January, the city began moving forward with eminent domain on the first of what could be at least 20 homes for its West Side Cedar River flood control project by condemning properties when the owners refuse to sell.