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New Uses for Old Buildings

Updated: Friday, February 7 2014, 09:39 PM CST
CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS2/FOX28) – Almost six years ago, flood waters ruined much of downtown Cedar Rapids. The City’s voluntary acquisition program helped to renovate thousands of destroyed properties. Now, the city is working with individual people to help clean up some of the remaining land.

Just south of the New Bohemia District is a house with a heart.

The city owns it now but soon it’ll be Beth DeBoom’s. She hopes to eventually renovate the building and open a shop on the first floor.

"My family is originally from this neighborhood so I remember what it looked like,” said DeBoom, the President of Save Cedar Rapids Heritage.

"Unfortunately after the floods, we lost a lot of those residential properties so these few that are remaining are very important to us,” said the Executive Director of the Czech Village/New Bohemia Main Street District Jennifer Pruden.

Beth says without the work that she and Czech Village/New Bohemia Main Street District have done, the historical structure likely would have been demolished.

"It's like a scarred battlefield right now. But I know what it looked like before and I know what it can look like again,” said DeBoom.

But it takes the kind of tender loving care that only a private developer can provide. When the city gets involved, it often has no choice but to tear these buildings down.

"In those cases, the vast majority of those cases, the structures we've purchased, we've demolished,” said the Executive Administrator for Development Services in Cedar Rapids Joe O’Hern.

But when private developers step in, it can mean a preserved building that is able to contribute to property taxes,” and we have another asset in the community, so we really do like to see that happen,” said O’Hern.

But it doesn’t happen without people like Beth taking the first step.

"I'm a writer by profession but right now I'm a developer, I'm developing a property, I'll be carpenter, and then I'll be a shop owner,” said DeBoom.

Beth says her plan is to open an architectural salvage shop that will have household materials for sale. She hopes to open in November.New Uses for Old Buildings


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