“These Are Not Just Names”

The Gazette • May 31, 2011

Cedar Rapids Developer Jack Hatch says he builds affordable housing in Iowa in a way that is attractive yet sturdy so it will stand the test of time.

Then he says he goes one step further: He names the buildings.

At a community dedication ceremony Friday, Hatch explained to a noontime gathering of about 100 people why he named his two new apartment buildings on Sixth Street SE – the Oak Hill Jackson Brickstones – after 12-year-old Adam Todd and 87-year-old Art Pennington.

Todd, who struggles with epilepsy, is the son of Sara Todd and Dale Todd, Hatch Development Group’s regional development director and a former Cedar Rapids City Council member. Pennington, who lives a block and a half from one of the Brickstones,is a former baseball star who thrived in the Negro Leagues. Hatch said Pennington would have made it to the major league if he hadn’t been  black player married to a white woman.

“Art Pennington and Adam Todd,” ?Hatch said. “These are more than just names. This is a statement about injustice, persistence, courage, that we’re very honored to have placed on these two buildings.

“Here you have the names of two gentlemen, one who is (12) and another who is a little older. They can inspire us. So when you drive by these buildings, you’re going to think about the people who live in the neighborhood, and about people who have fought for their lives, for something, and someone who is going to continue to fight for his life with the courage he has.”

The Adam, with 54 affordable apartments, is now open, and the Pennington, with 42 apartments, is slated to open soon.

Pennington, who turns 88 next week, shard some stories of his baseball days with the crowd, and said he was “very, very proud” to have been thought of by Hatch and Dale Todd.

“It’s something that I just can’t believe,” Pennington, who moved to Cedar Rapids in 1959, said before Friday’s event. “After all these years, and they are all recognizing me. I’m really grateful.”

Mayor Ron Corbett thanked Hatch, a state senator from Des Moines, and Dale Todd for putting “heart” into the two new apartment buildings. The mayor said the buildings are helping to replace affordable housing lost in the Oak Hill Jackson neighborhood in the June 2008 flood.

“They say sometimes you have to go through the valley to get to the mountaintop,” Corbett said. “And as individuals struggle and go through their little valleys, as Adam does and as Art has done, communities do, too. I think we’re through our valley, and we’re heading up to the mountaintop. And this (the Brickstones) is one great project on that road to recovery.