Un-Natural Disasters +5: Cedar Rapids - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Un-Natural Disasters +5: Cedar Rapids


Linda Seger's home looks like any other now but five years ago there was water flooded her entire first floor.No lives were lost due to the flood on June 13, 2008 but Seger and 10,000 others were displaced.

"It was a real shocker to know that you have your home for 30-some years and you come and your home is destroyed and suddenly you become one of those people you never thought you would be, homeless," said Seger.

While the city had seen flooding before, nobody expected the Cedar River to crest at higher than 31 feet. The flood impacted more than ten square miles of the city.

"People were sandbagging around storm sewers," said Maura Pilcher, Czech Village New Bohemia Main Street District. "They were sandbagging around the front doors but nobody really expected it to get to the point that it did.

Immediately after the flooding the recovery conversations began.

"The town is resilient," said Ron Corbett, Cedar Rapids Mayor. "We needed to re-build. And not just re-build the way it was. We wanted to rebuild better."

Maura Pilcher studied the New Bohemia and Czech Village neighborhoods during graduate school.She turned in her thesis days before the flooding. After the flood, that thesis was used to make sure the history of the district wasn't lost.

"We were constantly trying to make sure that we were building something that was going to be sustainable into the future and making sure that the right decisions were made as far as which buildings could be rehabbed and how and do it for the betterment of the whole community," said Pilcher.

Today empty storefronts are slowly gaining new businesses and companies are looking to move to the district.

Rebuilding is happening all over the city. The new downtown library will open this summer. A new central fire station is under construction. Several other projects have already been completed.

"If you drive around the community, you drive around downtown you will see a lot of private sector investment coming back in to the community," said Joe O'Hern, Former Flood Recovery and Reinvestment Director. "I think we have moved off of the flood recovery phase. We still have work to do"

Work that includes challenges , like seeing flood protection built on both sides of the Cedar River. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved a project for the east side, but not the west. Finding funding for both projects has been an ongoing challenge.

Other city projects are in better shape.

"We certainly are seeing a lot of rebuilding at this point in time," said O'Hern.

In the Time Check area, many flood damaged homes were demolished. Several lots will be left as green space. Construction is underway to rebuild others, filling in some of the empty lots farther away from the river.

Linda Seger rebuilt her own home with the help of family.

"Every one of us in our own heart, our desire is always to go back home," said Seger.

Now the progress made by city leaders is inspiring others, including private businesses, to invest in all areas of Cedar Rapids, not just the flood zone.

"We have invested in Cedar Rapids," said Corbett. "The private sector has seen that investment and now they are investing in Cedar Rapids."

Those private projects include Westdale Mall, a $90 million investment and the potential Cedar Rapids casino, a $100 million investment that would include some flood protection.

City leaders believe both projects show Cedar Rapids will continue to grow in the future.

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