June 13, 2009 - Letter to Editor (Cedar Rapids Gazette)
Return to a restored Veterans Memorial
While generally supportive of our City Council, I am concerned with its clear disinterest in returning City Hall to the Veterans Memorial Building. I fear “sustainability” will be used to advocate for a new facility instead. However, defining sustainability must go beyond operational costs and consider environmental impacts of new construction (embodied energy, pollution, material waste), as well as social and contextual implications.
Since the historic building must be restored, regardless of its future use, it would be most economical — and sustainable — for the city to return. New mechanical and electric systems along with better insulation could improve the building’s efficiency, reducing energy costs. Some upper floors have gone underutilized for years, so there is certainly room to renovate the building into suitable, modern offices.
Returning to Vets could happen much sooner than a new facility and might be redemptive for the council, having faced heavy criticism of inaction thus far. Additionally, I believe the city has a responsibility to make sure this architecturally significant building doesn’t go underutilized or vacant for years to come. The building is an icon; it makes Cedar Rapids unique, unites east and west and should be revered as a symbol of our civic pride.