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Hach Building Scheduled for Demolition

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS2/FOX28) While parts of the city is finding new places to build, other people in Cedar Rapids are trying to keep old structures standing. After the 2008 flood, many buildings along the Cedar River were beyond repair. For some that stayed standing, renovation has been a long process.

As you cross the 16th Avenue bridge, turning the Czech Village into the New Bohemia District, the first thing you see, just off to the left, is the Hach Building.

Once upon a time, for a street that used to be a main patch to the Sinclair factories, it was one of the first welcoming signs to downtown Cedar Rapids from the farmland to the west.

"This has functioned as a very significant gateway structure, said Cedar Rapids Historian Mark Stoffer Hunter. You come across the bridge from the west side and this is very prominently in view, and you know you're in a special place.

That Hach building is as visible now as it was nearly a century ago, when it operated as a bar.

"Used to go down there and have a beer, and that was just after prohibition," said the buildings current owner, Leon Tunnie Melsha.

Tunnie and his wife bought the building right after the flood, paying just about $35,000 for it. Theyre the same people who fixed up the Little Bohemia bar just down the street. But now, they say theyre out of the restoration business, and they plan to tear down the Hach Building within the month, possibly as soon as next week.

"I don't think there was much in that thing, said Tunnie. I don't know."

The Melshas say it would take too much money to fix up, and that its better off as an open lot. Beth DeBoom from Save CR Heritage disagrees.

"We have had all of our experts look at the structure, said DeBoom. It's good.

She says they were able to put together an offer for $80,000 that the Melshas turned down. Tunnie says when he originally bought it, he thought he would use it.

"And we thought maybe someday we'd have an office down there, said Tunnie.

With time, Tunnie got sick and that project made less sense. But with Little Bohemia down the street, they say knocking the Hach Building down means one less potential competitor. That was part of the reason they bought it in the first place.

Beth says its frustrating.

"We were able to find a person, or development group who would write a check for the building, said DeBoom. Not sure what else you can do."

Both Stoffer Hunter and DeBoom say barring a last-second and drastic change of heart by the Melshas, that the building will likely be torn down by the middle of the month.

Their focus has shifted to the name plate on the top of the building. It has P. Hach along the top, standing for the original business owner, Peter Hach, who ran a bottling company and bar out of the building below. It also has 1901, the year the building was built.

Stoffer Hunter says its important to save that name plate because it is the only one remaining in the city. He says it is reminiscent of a time when 14th Avenue Southeast was a main passage way for farmers to bring their animals to the Sinclair factories. The name plate was a source of pride for business owners, tying their name to their buildings permanently.

Other buildings on 14th Avenue have the same corner-entrance architecture, above which the name plates were constructed. Stoffer Hunter says with time and renovations over the years, the plates have been damaged or removed.

The city requires that the Hach building be demolished before May 29th. Some say it will be taken down as soon as Monday, May 12.
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