Some piles of flood-ruined property reach as high as 10 feet in Cedar Rapids as homeowners and businesses struggle to recover from this month’s natural disaster. Streets in the downtown business district remain nearly impassable, blocked by rubble and cleaning crews.
In the city’s historic Czech Village, John Rocarek hopes to reopen his Sykora Bakery by Thanksgiving. "We had about eight feet of water in the first floor, but it didn’t touch the historic painting that was done back the ’30s by a family that came through, didn’t have money to buy anything and so they painted the bakery," he says. "….The good news is our old oven here, vintage 1888, that we’ve been using at this location since about 1912 is going to get new brick, new stone now — so we’re going to turn it into a nice, new thing but it’s going to be the same old oven."
Many homeowners in Cedar Rapids are urging officials to quickly decide who should get a government payoff so their property can be cleared and abandoned, as it’s in a zone likely to flood again. Deanna Jencks was among those who voiced their anger at a city council forum last week. Her home had a pre-flood assessed value of $71,000. "I’ve only had my house since November and I’ve put $6000 worth of updates in it and I’m ready to have that thing bulldozed. I don’t even want it anymore," she said. "You know, we had a 500-year flood this year. What happens next year? What if we have a 600-year flood?"
Scott Olson, a commercial real estate broker in Cedar Rapids, says it’s not just homeowners who want answers. "If we wait too long, we’re going to have an empty downtown," he says.
There is a sign that a major employer in Cedar Rapids likely is committed to rebuilding in downtown Cedar Rapids. Quaker Oats has hooked up an emergency generator to light its iconic logo atop the company’s plant that sits on the bank of the Cedar River.