Cedar Rapids, a community working together

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Looking down A Avenue S.E. toward the Cedar River June 13, 2008 (Quaker Oats is on the right). (Photo by Cynthia Petersen)

Nearly five years ago,  the Cedar River rose to an all-time level of 31 feet. It spilled over its banks to cover a whopping 10 square miles of the city. The people of Cedar Rapids were faced with the challenge of not only recovering from the damage the muddy waters created, but to look ahead at what the future held for the city and its inhabitants.

Slowly, the city began to emerge from the shell-shock that had settled on the community following the flood.  Those who had helped place sandbags to try to keep the waters from further damaging their properties came back after the waters receded to assist in the clean-up.

Together, the people of Cedar Rapids picked up the pieces of their shattered lives and began to plan how they would rebuild their city.

Businesses began moving back to the downtown area. Houses that stood empty along the river, too damaged to repair, were torn down to make way for new structures.  And the residents of Cedar Rapids finally saw a light at the end of the tunnel.

In the past year, a new federal building was built on the corner of 8th Avenue and 2nd Street SE. and a new courthouse was built downtown. The renovated civic center will make its debut June 1 with a concert by popular musical group Lady Antebellum, and several other new buildings will also be completed this summer, as well as an outdoor amphitheater.

The new amphitheater is being constructed on the banks of the Cedar River-March 2013 (Photo by Cynthia Petersen)

The new amphitheater is being constructed on the banks of the Cedar River-March 2013 (Photo by Cynthia Petersen)

The New Bo District, 12th Avenue and 3rd Street S.E., boasts the city’s first year-round farmer’s market, a new books store, a new coffee shop, and an art center in the Cherry Building. Several eating and drinking establishments also complement the district.

Additionally, Linn County residents recently voted to allow a group of investors to build a casino in Cedar Rapids, which is scheduled to open in 2016.

It has taken time, but Cedar Rapids is on its way to becoming even better than it was before the historical flood.

When the Cedar River began to rise in June 2008, no one could predict the devastation flooding could cause or how long it would take to rebuild. But according to Scott Loggins, a Cedar Rapids business owner who helped to organize the Cedar Rapids Small Business Recovery Group, communities that experience a flood such as Cedar Rapids typically take 10 years to recover. He cited the infamous flood in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and the flood in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

One thing I know about my community is that when something needs to be done, we do it, together. We stand beside one another in love and support, no matter what. That’s what I love most about Cedar Rapids. That’s why people choose to live here.

Congratulations, Cedar Rapids. We have done a great job rebuilding our community, together.