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CBJ Report: Surveys find 2016 business flood losses topped $25.7 million in CR

Every week, the Corridor Business Journal shares stories it's working on with CBS 2 News. Here are some of their top stories that will appear in Monday's edition of the CBJ.

Surveys find 2016 business flood losses topped $25.7 million in CR

While quick action to build a temporary flood protection system saved most of Cedar Rapids from the September 2016 Cedar River flood, a new city report shows private-sector losses total more than $25.7 million.

The losses consisted primarily of lost sales and production due to the nearly week-long period many businesses were evacuated, city Economic Development Specialist David Connolly told the Cedar Rapids City Council on Tuesday. He said efforts to mitigate flood damage to private properties also added to the expense.

A total of 141 businesses responded to survey requests from the city, including 34 major employers and 107 small businesses.

City Economic Development Manager Jasmine Almoayed said the Jobs and Small Business Recovery Fund set up to respond to the need has so far received 101 applications. Of the applications received, 44 have already been completed and funded, 41 are approved awaiting funds.

The program allowed qualifying businesses to apply for a maximum grant of $5,000 or up to 50 percent of average weekly sales of the business, product loss and evacuation costs. Businesses could not qualify if they did not reopen, however, only a handful did not.

Large employers sustained $19.8 million in losses, while smaller employers sustained $4.2 million. Some big employers did not respond to the survey request, and so city economic development staff believe the total losses could be significantly larger. A full report on the city's findings will be released next week in connection with the annual State of the City address.

A Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation program to assist nonprofits affected by the flood raised and distributed $90,107, Ms. Almoayed said. The foundation and the Kirkwood Small Business Development Center also worked with the city to set up the Jobs and Small Business Recovery Fund.

Marion ALDI store part of $1.6B upgrade plan

The Marion ALDI store at 1001 50th St. will be expanded as part of a plan by the grocery chain to make 1,300 stores in the United States more welcoming and convenient.

The Marion store will be expanded 20 feet to the south in a project slated to begin in April, Marion planning officials said during a city council work session on Feb. 7. The project will require filling in a lower area, but no other complications.

The ALDI chain wants to make more room for a growing number of fresh items, including fruits and vegetables, dairy, bakery and some organic products, the company said in a press release. The store renovations will feature natural lighting and recycled materials, energy-saving refrigeration and LED lighting.

ALDI, with U.S. operations headquartered in Batavia, Illinois, expects to spend $1.6 billion on the store renovation initiative. The company previously announced plans to open an additional 650 locations nationwide, including its first in southern California.

Della Viti coming to downtown Cedar Rapids

Wine lovers in the Corridor will have a new meeting spot in downtown Cedar Rapids this spring with the opening of the Della Viti wine lounge.

Located in the former Gringo’s restaurant space at 207 First Ave. SE, directly across from the DoubleTree by Hilton Cedar Rapids Convention Complex, Della Viti will offer patrons 40 handpicked wine selections, all available by the “splash, glass or bottle,” owners Sarah and Scott Rivera said in an email.

The location will feature 10 ‘tasting stations,’ with four wines inside each. The stations are self-serve, and will allow customers to choose from a 1 ounce taste, a half or a full glass of wine, available through the use of a cash-loaded smartcard. Bottles will also be available for purchase, along with local craft beers, spirits and a small plates menu.

Mr. Rivera was formerly a pilot in the Navy, but is now employed full-time at Rockwell Collins; Ms. Rivera has been involved in entrepreneurial endeavors for the past several years. Both are new to the hospitality world, but described their dream of opening a wine lounge as a “long-term goal.”

Their personal investment is being assisted by a small group of private investors who previously backed Della Viti in Ames and Des Moines, although Mr. Rivera noted “Della Viti is not a franchise, and as such, each instance is its own interpretation to meet local tastes.”

The 1,600-square-foot space will seat about 50, with a vibe that’s more coffee house than bar, Mr. Rivera said. Low seats and couches will fill the front of the space, with some high tops near the bar, while a “reclaimed industrial” aesthetic will nod to the building’s history, with freshly exposed brick and uncovered tin ceilings.

Ms. Rivera will serve as the primary operator of the space, although they expect to hire between three and six additional staff members. An opening is planned for late March.

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