More than 100 people joined Linn County officials and Harris family members on May 18 at the groundbreaking ceremony for Linn County’s Dr. Percy and Lileah Harris Building.
Upon completion, which is expected in late 2019, the Harris Building will house Linn County Public Health and Linn County Child & Youth Development Services. The approximately 55,000 square foot building will be built on County-owned land at 1020 6th Street SE in Cedar Rapids near the NewBo and Oakhill Jackson neighborhoods.
In a unanimous decision, the Linn County Board of Supervisors voted to posthumously honor Dr. Percy and Lileah Harris by naming the future Linn County Public Health and Child & Youth Development Services building after them in recognition of their lifetime of dedication and service to health and education in Linn County.
Service Improvements & Neighborhood Outreach
The Harris Building will provide much-needed space for Linn County Public Health, a critical County department serving all Linn County residents that has outgrown its current space. It will also greatly improve the classrooms and learning environment for the children served by Linn County’s Child Development Center. A playground and gymnasium are planned as integral to the programming. They will double as essential building elements and as community amenities that will be open to the public after business hours and on weekends.
Linn County held community outreach meetings during the building’s design to engage the public in discussion about how the new building can be a neighborhood asset and to help ensure the building’s design and function fit the context of the historic neighborhood.
As part of Linn County’s commitment to energy efficiency and sustainable design, the Harris Building will meet Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification standards, a certification program that encourages green and sustainable building practices.
The Harris Building will be constructed using a lease-purchase agreement between Linn County and Rinderknecht Associates. The estimated total project cost is $31.2 million. The total cost includes an estimated construction cost of $28.1 million and an estimated consultant, furnishings and miscellaneous costs of $3.1 million.
Dr. Percy and Lileah Harris
Dr. Percy Harris and his wife Lileah were respected community leaders, advocates for the arts and education, and champions of civil rights. The couple moved to Cedar Rapids in 1957 after Dr. Harris accepted an internship at St. Luke’s Hospital. Dr. Harris was the first African American physician in Cedar Rapids where he built his medical practice. Dr. Harris also served as Linn County Medical Examiner for nearly 40 years. Some of his other community roles included serving as president of the Cedar Rapids chapter of the NAACP, chairman of the Board of Directors of the Jane Boyd Community House, serving on the St. Luke’s Hospital Board of Directors and an appointment to the Iowa Board of Regents. He was also the recipient of numerous awards.
Lileah was a pianist, active church member, and an advocate for lifelong learning and education. Lileah earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Russian from the University of Iowa at the age of 62. Some of Lileah’s community roles included serving on the board of the NAACP, membership on the Cedar Rapids Human Rights Commission and serving on the Board of Directors of the Cedar Rapids Symphony Guild.
Married 63 years, the Harris’ raised 12 children. Lileah Harris died in 2014. Dr. Percy Harris died in 2017.