Corridor Urbanism
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Corridor Urbanism

Would It Make Cedar Rapids Better If This Was Torn Down for a Gas Station?

Obviously not.

1900 1st Ave NE.

Kwik Trip Inc. Wants to Build A Gas Station at 1900 1st Ave NE

Kwik Trip Inc. wants to rezone 1900 1st Ave NE to put in a KwikStar gas station and convenience store. Kwik Trip Inc. operates gas station and convienence stores under the KwikTrip, KwikStar and Tobacco Outlet Plus brands. The current plan site plan would demolish the Western Fraternal Life Association building built in 1958.

The rezoning was initially scheduled for the August 24, 2021 Cedar Rapids City Council meeting but was pulled after neighborhood pushback against the proposed development. Kwik Trip Inc. announced an “informational meeting” hosted at 1900 1st Ave NE for September 9, 2021 at 5:00 p.m. (that’s today).

The Western Fraternal Life Assocation building was vacated this year after WFLA merged with National Mutual Benefit in Madison WI. WFLA had a 117 year history in Cedar Rapids. It was founded as Zapadni Ceska Bratrska Jednota in 1897, and its initial offices were in 1202 3rd St SE, current home to Brewhemia, Caucho and the Olympic Theater.

The WFLA building is larger than area KwikStar stores at 15,334* square feet. Area KwikStars are around 7,300 square feet. The WFLA building is in excellent physical condition, and is a striking modernist design clad in stone, granite and ribbons of glass. The interior of the WFLA building has been extensively remodeled over the years, so additional remodeling or reuse would not damage or destroy historic interiors.

*An earlier version of this story only used square footage for one story of the building. The WFLA building is two stories. It could fit two KwikStars.

High quality exterior materials define the WFLA building.

1900 1st Avenue Is Worth Saving

The WFLA building has a direct connection to Cedar Rapids rich Czech heritage, is in excellent condition, and is a striking example of Mid Century architecture on a prominent corner in the heart of Cedar Rapids. Tearing it down would be a shame. Tearing it down for a gas station would be a tragedy.

Cedar Rapids Core Neighborhoods Need More Options for Fresh Produce

Kwik Trip Inc. stores standout from other regional gas station chains like Casey’s and Kum and Go because of their larger stores that sell fresh meat and produce. KwikStar and KwikTrip stores are small grocer’s with reasonable prices. A KwikStar store at 1900 1st Ave NE would be a great addition for residents of the Wellington Heights, Moundview, Kenwood Park, Vernon Heights and Ridgeway neighborhoods.

1900 1st Avenue is Big Enough to be a KwikStar Grocery

The WFLA building is large enough to accomodate a KwikStar neighborhood grocery store. It doesn’t need to be torn down. Converting this building into a KwikStar would be an excellent reuse of this building and provide a benefit to the neighborhood.

1st Avenue Doesn’t Need More Gas Stations

Additional retail along 1st Avenue between 19th and 10th would be great for our community. But what we don’t need are more gas stations in the heart of an urban neighborhood, along the busiest bus line in the city. Putting a gas station here simply doesn’t make any sense.

Save the building, Put in a Neighborhood Grocery, and Everyone Wins

1900 1st Avenue NE has a large outdoor patio area that would be an excellent spot for outdoor dining.

Kwik Trip Inc. is a large company that operates over 700 stores in the upper midwest. They have the money to remodel the interior of the WFLA building to suit their needs. The building is already large enough to accommodate one of their stores. KwikStar stores are good! A neighborhood grocery would be a great addition to this part of Cedar Rapids.

A gas station canopy would be directly adjacent housing anywhere on this site, making it a terrible spot for a gas station.

I’d welcome KwikStar adapting this striking modernist building with a direct connection to Cedar Rapids Czech heritage into a neighborhood grocery store.

What I don’t want is this:

Because Cedar Rapids deserves better.

If you think so too join me tonight at 5:00 p.m. at 1900 1st Ave NE to tell Kwik Trip Inc. we want positive investment in our community. Not another gas station.

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