From the Mouths of Babes: An Idea for First & First West
Dec 17, 2019
On the west side of the Cedar River in Downtown Cedar Rapids sits eight acres of land full of potential. The site, known as First & First West, is significant in a few ways.
First & First West is in Kingston Village, a neighborhood of Downtown Cedar Rapids that has seen exponential growth in recent years. Additionally, thousands of cars pass this location every day, with Interstate 380 curving around the site. First & First West was once slated for a casino, and the land has already undergone much of the necessary preliminary engineering and environmental testing and been deemed suitable for something substantial.
The City of Cedar Rapids is currently seeking input from the public, which will be used to guide development objectives in a future Request for Proposals for developers. Big ideas are encouraged—something vastly different from what’s already downtown. The latest iteration of the Downtown Cedar Rapids Vision Plan highlighted this area as the number one key impact site for future development and was deemed an unprecedented opportunity for the community to do something remarkable for Cedar Rapids and for Iowa.
Young Minds Hatch a Creative Idea
Even some of Cedar Rapids’ youngest residents are presenting their ideas for the land to City of Cedar Rapids staff. Fifth grade students in Viola Gibson Elementary’s Lego League were challenged to solve a problem involving a public space or building. This group of young minds chose to develop a Quaker Oats-themed museum and fun center for First & First West. Their planned attraction would include history on the company’s cereal production in Cedar Rapids, a play area for children and perhaps even a cereal bar. Within view of First & First West, Quaker Oats’ Cedar Rapids facility is its largest cereal production plant, producing 70% of all Quaker Oats’ products, including cereal, snacks bars and oatmeal.
The class originally reached out to Downtown Director, Jesse Thoeming, who met with them to both review their initial ideas and relay a list of ideas formulated by the Economic Alliance’s Community Development Innovation Council back in 2018. He encouraged the students to capture all of their ideas into a single phrase or sentence that could describe the project and entice friends and family who don’t live in the area to want to visit downtown Cedar Rapids.
City staff listened to the students’ presentation, asked several questions and offered constructive feedback to their plan which they presented as part of a competition in late November. City staff will add this idea to the overall compilation of ideas from the public.
What’s Next for First & First West
Winter 2019/2020 - The City of Cedar Rapids will issue Request for Proposals to invite development proposals for the First & First West site
Spring 2020 - First & First West Steering Committee reviews and makes recommendation, Cedar Rapids City Council selects preferred proposal
Summer 2020 - Negotiate Development Agreement for the disposition and redevelopment of the site
Learn more about First & First West on the City of Cedar Rapids' website. If you have an idea for First & First West, email FirstandFirst@cedar-rapids.org.