A former drive-in restaurant is serving as a rallying point for a northwest Cedar Rapids neighborhood that was devastated by the flooding in 2008. Residents hope to get the city to approve a plan next month to save the A&W where you used to be able to drive up and have car hops on roller skates deliver an icy-cold rootbeer.
Linda Seger lives about seven blocks away in a home that was rebuilt after being destroyed by the flood. She says the impact of the A&W was apparent in the reaction of her grandkids. Seger says the younger grandkids were “absolutely horrified” when they saw the flood debris and destruction at the A&W.
She says the grandkids showed less emotion at the destruction of her house than they did for the restaurant because they had so many memories there. The owner of the A&W accepted a buyout for the property and it was to be demolished, until the effort to save it got underway.
Sue Wesley remembers rootbeers and coney dogs at the drive-in as a kid and is now working with her husband to try and save the structure.
Wesley says their desire is to make it a community gathering place, where older people can come and have coffee and solve the world’s problems, to young people coming in after a football game.
“We want to make it a place for (the) community to come and to just sit back and spend that time developing relationships,” Welsey says. Wesley is working with developer Barron Stark, who says the $300,000 renovation price tag is worth it.
Stark says it’s an historical icon that he thinks would draw people back to the area and something that the city of Cedar Rapids would support. Stark is the only one to submit a development proposal for the A&W and the city will consider it next month.
Wesley and Seger hope the new gathering place could be open by sometime next year.