The Czech Village New Bohemia Main Street District announces the third annual Robert Chadima Visionary Awards. The award will be presented annually to honor individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the district and reflect Robert Chadima’s vision of entrepreneurship, innovation, and creativity for the neighborhood.
The luncheon event will take place at the NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids, IA on March 11th, 2019 at 11:30am. This year’s honorees, Kuba Family, David Van Allen, and McClain Family, will be recognized for their contributions to the artist community, cultural heritage, and construction of the Bridge of Lions 30 years ago.
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David Van Allen moved into his studio in the Cherry Building in 1997. David’s vision for the neighborhood aligned with Robert Chadima’s: bringing artists to the neighborhood. When asked about his vision for the district when he moved in, David said; “ I was hoping to see a bohemian-style community with artists, galleries, coffee shops and neighborhood pubs. I was hoping to see art events, musical performances and theater events. CSPS was already doing this stuff. And so my vision for the neighborhood was also reinforced by CSPS. I figured that if anything of this nature was going to happen and grow in Cedar Rapids, it would be this neighborhood. I figured that my role was to be an additional supporter and instigator.”
Over the years, David has been active in the arts community; working out of his Cherry Building photo studio and wood shop, renting the space out to other artists, capturing multi-image portraits of people who lived or worked in the district (exhibit 2006), showcasing over 100 exhibits of other artist’s work, acting in an original play “New Bohemia,” (performance in Cedar Rapids and Prague 2016) and documenting artwork and performances in the New Bohemia neighborhood.
The McClain Family has deep roots in the Czech Village. When George McClain married Janelle, daughter of a Czech family (Votroubek/Erusha) he became aware of the history and significance of the Czech community in Cedar Rapids. To contribute and share their rich Czech heritage, the family has been involved with the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library, as well as Czech heritage events.
George and Janelle McClain’s son, Quinton moved back to Cedar Rapids in 2011 after college in Colorado, traveling to and working in Buenos Aires, and spending time working in different pubs and breweries. He had learned the art of brewing in Amana at Millstream Brewing and at the Fort Collins Brewery as well as a course in Chicago. Together, they searched for a building with a suitable structure that was historically valued in the Czech VIllage – New Bohemia Main Street District. They decided on the building at 59 16th Ave SW, which was originally Fritz’s Food Market, built in 1938. In researching the building, family stories revealed that Janelle’s mother and grandmother had sold their farm eggs and strawberries to Mr. Witwer when he owned this grocery store. The McClain’s restored the glazed brick, raised the ceiling to its original height, and opened windows that had been boarded up for more than 50 years. Today Quinton and his wife Ana, oversee Lion Bridge Brewing Company; a bustling brewery and restaurant serving World Class Beers while featuring local vendors and seasonal flavors. Lion Bridge Brewing Company distributes draft beer throughout Iowa, competes in national beer competitions and has recently began canning beer for distribution in Eastern Iowa.
When asked about his hopes for the future of the district, George McClain said, “To create more of a blend of CVNB by bridging the gap and expanding the destination focus for great food, entertainment and variety of retail establishments with the security of flood control. “
The Kuba Family are accepting the Robert Chadima Visionary Award in honor of Edward R. Kuba Sr.
Ed Kuba lived and worked on Second Street SE most of his life and was a persistent and vocal advocate for Bohemian (Czech) heritage, traditions, and concerns. Ed was the “voice” for the neighborhood and was highly involved with local government on issues important to the area. He often used his facilities to support local historic or cultural activities. In the 1970’s, he provided early meeting space within the Kuba Annex structure at 1302 Second Street SE for the Czech Museum and for the Linn County Historical Society – long before these groups evolved into the National Czech and Slovak Museum & Library and The History Center. He was a constant supporter of the Czech School and loved to promote Czech ethnic festivals such as Houby Days and the Kolache Festival.
In the mid 1980’s, Ed Kuba was instrumental in lobbying for a new Sixteenth Avenue Bridge (also known as the “Bridge of Lions”) after the old 1910 bridge was deemed unsafe and was demolished in 1988. He felt strongly that a smaller, pedestrian friendly bridge connecting Czech Village and what is now known as New Bohemia was important to the long-term preservation of these historic and iconic neighborhoods. To ensure the creation of the bridge, Kuba became chairman of the Bridge Education Committee. Old world European design became a focus for the new bridge, which incorporated special features such as the lion sculptures, pedestrian observation decks, and intricate balustrades on both ends of the bridge –reminiscent of their Bohemian heritage. He also advocated for the Bohemian tradition of mixing eggs with concrete, which was integrated into the bridge construction. Ed died on April 14, 1998 at the age of 86. The Bridge of Lions was proudly opened in 1989. The Bridge of Lions celebrates it’s 30 year anniversary this year and continues to be a beautiful connection point between New Bohemia and Czech Village.
Robert Chadima originally acquired the historic Cherry Building in 1976 to house his welding and industrial supply business, Thorarc Company. From the outset, his priority was to make loft studio spaces in the Cherry Building available to local artists. His vision was to repurpose the Cherry Building as an incubator for entrepreneurs and artists – with a passion for creativity being the common denominator.
Back then Third Street was known as a “Brown Field”, not “New Bohemia.” It was a proud old ethnic neighborhood with some strong bones, but the neighborhood was definitely in a severe state of decline. “Vision” means having the ability to see beyond what is before your eyes and imagine what it can become. Chadima had that in spades. Pursuing his vision required a life-long commitment, even when it didn’t appear to make any economic sense. Over the years he eventually sold his welding and industrial supply business, but kept the Cherry Building and other commercial properties to pursue his unique vision of repurposing historic buildings as creative spaces for artists and entrepreneurs
In 1999 Robert Chadima’s son and daughter in law, David and Lijun Chadima, moved back to Cedar Rapids and not only bought a 50% share in the commercial properties, they also bought into his vision of repurposing old buildings to develop a new, creative neighborhood that was authentic and unique to Cedar Rapids. Chadima’s vision began to spread beyond the Cherry Building in the early 2000s. A group of local artists and entrepreneurs got together in the Cherry Building to form the New Bohemia Group, and formally re-named the neighborhood “New Bohemia.”
At the same time property owners were investing in the potential of the district to become something big. They focused on restoring the historic architecture and resurrecting the vibrancy of the Czech Village and New Bohemia neighborhoods to their former glory.
These efforts were nearly derailed by the flood of 2008, with the Cherry Building, CSPS Hall, National Czech & Slovak Museum and virtually all the historic buildings in the district receiving catastrophic flood damage. Even though Chadima was well into his 80s by this time, his indomitable spirit and commitment to the vision helped him persevere and pave the way for the “Post-flood Renaissance.” The post-flood recovery was a catalyst for the development of the whole district, and was a great source of pride and sense of accomplishment for Chadima.
Robert Chadima would be honored to have this award given in his name to the outstanding recipients recognized today.
Czech Village New Bohemia Main Street District, established in 2009, is a vibrant urban neighborhood focused on historic preservation and economic development. The mission is to encourage economic growth and promote preservation by working together toward a shared vision through implementation of the Main Street Four-Point Approach®. Building on its unique history, the District is a dynamic arts and culture venue that provides interesting, authentic and enriching experiences that complement the downtown with a variety of shopping, dining, arts, and cultural entertainment opportunities that can only be found here.