Developer Steve Emerson’s plans for downtown

Developer Steve Emerson’s plans for downtown

Steve Emerson, President of Aspect architecture:design wants Cedar Rapids to have a bustling downtown. So he’s building it. Since the flood over 650 new or rehabbed residential units are either planned, under construction or completed in downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. Aspect’s share of that total is substantial. The company has plans for 114 to 130 new residential units across four projects. Each project is a conversion of an existing historic commercial structure into housing. “The core needs that housing component to succeed,” said Emerson. More people living downtown will make downtown safer and encourage retail to move in, said Emerson. He used Des Moines, which has seen its downtown come back to life, as an example. “Des Moines has 10,000 units downtown,” said Emerson, “Cedar Rapids has 1,000.” Two of Aspect’s projects are in the heart of downtown: The former Illinois Gas and Electric Company building at 323 3rd Street SE and Smulekoff’s building at 97 3rd Ave SW. Aspect is waiting to take ownership of the Smulekoff’s building while the city figures out what’s necessary for flood protection. The need for flood protection meant the historic building probably couldn’t remain a retail space, Emerson said. “We’ll likely have to lose the loading dock in the back,” he said. The flood wall and pumping stations will make the already narrow space between the back of the building and the river even narrower. Aspect’s plan for the Smulekoff’s building feature a ground floor event center, either one or two stories of office space and two or three stories of “micro-unit” apartments, with 16 apartments per floor. The final use of the third floor hasn’t been…