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Matthew 25 Details Plans To Open Grocery Store In Hard-Hit Cedar Rapids Neighborhood

Kate Payne
Local community organization hopes its plans to open a nonprofit grocery store in a hard-hit Cedar Rapids neighborhood will help bring new activity and investment to the area.

A local community group is ramping up a fundraising campaign to open a grocery store in the urban core of Cedar Rapids, a key step in a neighborhood that was hard-hit during the 2008 flood, with scores of homes destroyed or leveled during city buyouts.

Establishing a non-profit grocery store in what was once an empty building in Cedar Rapids’ Time Check neighborhood would be a big deal. Opening the store is part of a larger effort by the group Matthew 25 to help residents and homeowners rebuild in the area on the northwest side of the city.

“We’re really here to talk about what an amazing neighborhood this is, the assets that it has of being near the river, near parks, right close to downtown, and thinking about all of the ways that we can build on that to bring it back and to make it even better,” Matthew 25 Executive Director Clint Twedt-Ball told supporters Tuesday at an event celebrating the effort to open the store.

Kate Payne
Matthew 25 currently runs a food pantry out of the building that they hope will one day house the Cultivate Hope Corner Store.

Matthew 25 has long invested in the area, helping build and rehab affordable housing, establishing an urban farm, and fostering neighborliness and new friendships by building box gardens in yards and donating Adirondack lawn chairs. The group currently runs the Cultivate Hope Produce Rescue, a food pantry, out of the building that they hope will one day house the Cultivate Hope Corner Store.

Bordering the Cedar River, Time Check had long been a working class neighborhood, and earned its name from the practice of workers at nearby plants using their work timesheets as a kind of credit to cover expenses. During the 2008 flood, the river rose to as high as 31 feet in the area, enough to swallow up homes and businesses.

The city bought out scores of flood-prone houses from voluntary sellers in the area, leveling them and leaving behind long stretches of empty streets and grassy lawns that will one day be developed into an extensive greenway park system along the river.

Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart said the city is doing its part to foster redevelopment in the area as well, with a commitment to extend the city’s flood control system alongside this neighborhood.

Kate Payne
Located in a historic building, Matthew 25 envisions the Cultivate Hope Corner Store will sell food staples as well as house a cafe space for seating and special events.

“The city cares deeply about the Time Check neighborhood,” Hart said at the event Tuesday. “There will be flood protection here, permanent flood protection. And the greenway space, the greenway space along with that flood protection system will provide open space and additional recreational opportunities for all of us to enjoy.”

SanDee Skelton says she has spent almost all her life in Time Check, a neighborhood she remembers as a place where people took care of each other. She says she has memories of the days when the local Hubbard Ice Company would deliver blocks of ice to residents who didn’t have electric iceboxes, and handed out chips of ice to children who played in the streets, their popsicles for the day.

She says she hopes the development can help breathe new life back into the old neighborhood.

“Let’s all do our part,” she said. “Let’s all help this to be a healthy neighborhood and keep ourselves healthy and care for our neighbors like we did years back when I was a kid.”

As of Tuesday, Matthew 25 has raised nearly $800,000 of its $1 million goal for its Healthy Neighborhoods Campaign. The funds will go towards establishing the grocery store as well as building and rehabbing affordable housing in the neighborhood.