Monday, February 22, 2016

Let's not screw up our riverfront again, or Just Say No to Ugly Barges

I'm hoping to start blogging a bit more, as the QCTimes is pretty much ceasing to function as a source of accurate local info, and there is a mountain of stuff going on. It's not quite "Alderman Drunkenly Crashes into Train"-level stuff, but we're getting there.

My case for not ruining LeClaire Park

In 2004, the first River Vision process brought hundreds of community members together to plan what would become Centennial and Crescent (now Veterans Memorial) Parks on the Davenport side, and Rock Island's riverfront as well. Much of the transformation that has happened between Gaines and Marquette Streets came from those meetings and plans. At the final River Vision meeting the consultant working on the plan, Hargreaves out of Boston, revealed a small red rectangle on the map that indicated a 12 story casino hotel at the foot of Brady Street. This was quite a bombshell to the general public, especially those of us that had attended all of the planning meetings where it was never mentioned. I'd imagine that it was considerably less surprising to the insiders, but that's how things always work.

Fast forward a decade to 2014, and the Isle of Capri corporation had failed to follow through on any of its promises to Davenport, and Davenport's riverfront east of Modern Woodmen Park looked just as crappy as it did in 2004. Along comes somewhat unreliable developer Todd Raufeisen, with a plan to finally replace the crumbling and abandoned Dock restaurant with a new structure including restaurants, reception, and office space. Building a flood-proof, attractive building on the riverfront would not be cheap, so this plan would have required both city incentives and the added office space to make the financial aspect viable. However, there is a vocal group of Davenport residents that don't want to see any development, much less a 5 story office/restaurant complex, built south of River Drive. Many on the Levee Commission cried, "Think of the River Vision plan!," apparently forgetting that the River Vision plan included a 12 story hotel, parking garage, and casino complex at the same location.

So the City brought back Hargreaves for a whole new set of meetings on what to do with the riverfront, focusing mainly on the area between the stadium and the Arsenal Bridge. I attended some of these meetings as well, but they didn't seem to draw the same enthusiasm that the 2004 process had. (Lack of trust after the last second hotel addition last time?) Hargreaves explained that bringing some restaurants to the riverfront would bring more people to the riverfront at more times of day and week than now. They also explained that the smaller the building built, the higher percentage of city money that would be required, due to the economy of scale and developer profit margins. Some of the don't-build-anything crowd seemed to reluctantly admit that a much smaller building than the 80,000 square feet Raufeisen had proposed, could possibly be ok.

So Hargreaves came out with a final plan, potentially directed by the city to include a restaurant building replacing the Dock, that many people felt was a pretty good compromise. It also included a pier coming out from either Main Street, or aligned with the Skybridge. That plan is available in PDF form here. The QCTimes, after the plan was complete, noticed that there was a raised walkway referred to in the plan as a belvedere, connecting the Skybridge to the new Dock area. They proceeded to throw a complete fit, in editorials and columns, about this new floodwall that Craig Malin supposedly wanted to build. If they had attended the meetings, they'd have known about it earlier, but actual journalism seems to be prohibitively expensive these days.

Regardless of the belvedere drama, veto drama, or crazy skybridge restaurant drama, Raufeisen failed to meet his deadlines for tearing down the old Dock, and former-Mayor Gluba, who had been opposed to the project all along, finally was able to convince the council to pull the plug on the whole thing. Meanwhile, Gluba had announced that Viking River Cruises planned to include Davenport as a stop on their newly-announced Mississippi River cruises. So now, after rushing into a new River Vision process because of the possibility of restaurant development, the city began rushing into a plan to accommodate the Viking cruise ships. There's been reluctance by some on the council to spend a lot of money on this, and then a new council, new mayor, and one less City Administrator have led to not much progress happening. They did manage to tear down the old Dock. The fact that the whole Viking thing was one of Gluba's biggest talking points probably isn't motivating new-Mayor Klipsch to push very hard for it either.

Now Alderman Boom, who has always been a friend to downtown, is pushing an idea he's had for a while, which is to acquire the barge that the casino "boat" is currently connected to, and use that as a dock for the Viking ships. This is probably my least favorite idea ever to come from Bill Boom. Nowhere in the new River Vision plan do we see a horribly ugly building-on-a-barge sitting in the center of our riverfront. If we really need an interim dock while we build a world-class pier, Oneida landing would work for a year or two. That brings me to my next point, which is the false sense of urgency that some are giving this project. Viking River Cruises, from what I can tell, has not even started construction on any of their Mississippi "longboat" cruise ships. This article indicates that they've pushed back their plans until 2018.

So, in conclusion (congrats if you've made it this far), we need to take a step back, and look at the entire LeClaire Park as a whole, and decide what is best for the next 50-100 years, rather than lurching from one shiny object to the next. In my opinion, this means a beautiful pier suitable for riverboat docking, a small, architecturally significant building housing one or more restaurants where the Dock used to be, and basically following the River Vision plan for tying everything together. We don't want to end up with the same kind of mess we've had on the riverfront for the last 25 years.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Facebook Frustrations and Condo Dreams

In many ways, the rise of news site comments and Facebook contributed to the decline of local blogging. Even in the height of the QC blogosphere, however, and even with the crazy comments this blog used to get, I always felt like the blog comments were better than the comments on the newspaper websites. One of the arguments back then was always whether or not to allow fully anonymous comments, which certainly has its pros and cons. Many insisted that the quality of comments would go up if people were forced to use a consistent screenname, or even their own real name. I opted to continue allowing anonymous comments, which is still true today, because I felt it allowed more insider info that people would have felt uncomfortable logging in to post.

Now, over 10 years after the launch of QuadCityImages, Facebook has proven that no matter how much peoples' identities are revealed, they will still say incredibly stupid things. I won't even get into the current national political scene, but locally, I've spent far too much time trying to argue with people on Facebook who seem to have no grasp of reality. This post on KWQC's Facebook page is a perfect example. The news story posted was essentially a reminder of old news, regarding the 400 River project, but over a hundred comments poured in about how stupid people felt the proposed condo building was. Here are some examples, with names removed so as not to embarrass them further.

The comments ranged from those above, doubting that anyone would want to live downtown, or not understanding that some people in the QC can actually afford $500k+ homes, to people with no concept of how capitalism or city planning work whatsoever. Stuff like wondering why "they" don't build "affordable housing" instead. Over the years I've learned that a lot of people seem to think the city just plunks down businesses, factories, and homes like they're building a Lego city. I'm sure many of those commenting would be shocked to find out the going rate of apartments in the newer market-rate downtown apartment buildings, as it wouldn't fit into their stuck-in-the-1980's view of Davenport.

All that said, the 400 River condos may well not happen. Even if there are 36 people who are willing to spend $465k and up for the units, they may read the kind of garbage above and worry about their chances to resell them in the future. I am extremely hopeful that the building is built as planned, because it looks great, it would be the biggest skyline-changer since the Figge, and also a slap in the face to all the people underestimating downtown Davenport over the last decade. I applaud longtime downtown (and QCI reader) JJ Condon and his partners for having the vision to put something bold on the table. Now let's hope they can make it happen.

If it doesn't work out, there's always a $695k condo still available in Kone Center.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Where in the QC is this? #20

Bringing this feature back again. Where in the Quad Cities was this taken? Since there aren't that many readers here, I'll also be posting it over on Facebook.

The Answer?

Finally, the Clayton House/Best Western/Clarion/Hojo/eyesore will be history starting Wednesday at 11am.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

2015 City Election Thoughts

It's election day in Davenport, and we've actually got some excitement this year. There are a lot of good candidates running in a number of wards, and also, Phil Yerington! But seriously, here are my semi-rambling thoughts on some of the races in Davenport.

Topping the list is the closest battle for Mayor in years. It's one of 2 votes I'll have to make today that I've really struggled to decide on. In general, I've been pleased with Mayor Gluba's performance over the years. I didn't even have a problem with his 2 vetoes, as I've lost patience with St. Ambrose's misplaced suburban sprawl model of central city development, and the Dock proposal could have indeed used some added protections for the city. However, as I posted back in June, Gluba has been acting increasingly erratic in some of his leadership. The final straw, in my opinion, was his sudden and unilateral request for Craig Malin to resign over mistakes with the casino/Elmore contract. If Gluba wanted Malin to resign, he should have put forth his resignation at the same time, as his was the only signature on that casino agreement.
On the other hand, Frank Klipsch has done a lot of good with the Y over the years, but is running as a bit too much of a Republican in our non-partisan city election. In the excellent WQPT discussion with the Mayoral candidates, Klipsh says "City government should not be involved in owning and operating entities that could, in fact, be done by the private sector." My first thoughts were some snarky things along the lines of "Like opening partially-taxpayer-funded YMCA's attached to North and West High Schools?" I'm not sure where the line is. Davenport is in need of new revenue streams, and there are only so many places to create them. While I can understand folks' opinion that the city shouldn't get involved in new "business" areas, I don't always agree with it. Dubuque has shown the a city owned casino can work, and I will always believe Davenport missed a huge chance to have a Restoration St. Louis-quality casino downtown. Instead, "the private sector," potentially interested in protecting their Riverside Casino profits, is building a casino that will leave Davenport still in 3rd place in the QC casino competition on Opening Day. I do, however, like Klipsch's ideas for the riverfront better than Gluba's crazy skybridge restaurant idea.
It's a tough choice, but I'm leaning towards voting against Gluba's recent unpredictability.

This is another interesting race, and difficult choice for me personally. I would love to have Barnhill, Gordon, and Gripp all on the city council, but that's not possible since Barney chose to run for At-Large. I'll probably go with Gordon and Gripp, despite the latter's lack of consideration of the benefits of a publicly-owned casino. He's far from alone on that front. Hopefully Alderman Barnhill can get some kind of recognition for his years of service on the city council if he is defeated. One thing I'm curious about, with 3 "mainstream" candidates for At-Large, is whether that voting block could be split to the point where Phil Yerington can pull in enough naysayer votes to make it onto the council. That would certainly bring back some unneeded excitement to the council chambers.

1st Ward
Rick Dunn has always been awesome for the 1st Ward, especially back when they lacked competent representation of the Council. I can certainly see why he's not opposed, because while I may not agree with some of his opinions, he does a great job of representing his ward.

2nd Ward
Bill Edmonds is quite a character, but I can't say I'd be too sad to see him off the council. I don't know enough about Maria Dickmann to form much of an opinion of her as a potential council member, but I suspect Edmonds will be reelected anyway.

3rd Ward
I've supported Bill Boom in every election, and this will be no different. He represents the 3rd Ward well, and has been a huge, huge supporter of downtown Davenport.

4th Ward
I feel like Alderman Ambrose has been saying less crazy stuff in the last few years, but maybe I'm just not paying as much attention. David Sodemann spoke briefly at a Hilltop meeting I attended, and he seems like he'd bring some new ideas to the Council. I don't think the 4th Ward is particularly demanding a change though, so again, the incumbent will probably win.

5th Ward
It was a tough choice between Sheilia Burrage and Barney Barnhill back in 2013 for my 5th Ward vote, but this year Barney has simplified that by running for a different job. Rita Rawson has been involved in city politics for years, but I was quite pleased with Alderwoman Burrage's performance as 5th Ward's representative in the past, so I hope she can pick up where she left off.

6th Ward
Jeff Justin has been a great guy to have on the council, and seems to represent the 6th Ward perfectly. That probably explains why no one chose to run against him. He also actually responds to emails!

7th Ward
Looks like Mike Matson will continue to represent the 7th Ward.

8th Ward
And finally, the 8th Ward. I don't know much of anything about Bob Babcock, but Kerri Tomkins hasn't overly impressed me on the council, especially her attempts to kill various downtown riverfront amenities. I suppose it doesn't hurt to have someone on the Council keeping the pro-Downtown folks honest.

That's it folks. I may not post often, but I sometimes make up for it by writing 1000-word essays at the last minute. The most important thing, of course, is to exercise your rights and vote for your local representation. As I always say, if you don't vote, don't complain about what you end up with!

Find your precinct here, if you don't already know it.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

A few local election things

City Elections

People are starting to announce that they're running for city council in various wards. Per QCTimes columnist Brian Wellner's twitter account, Bob Babcock will run in the 8th Ward and David Sodemann will run in the 4th Ward. This is in addition to already announced candidates Maria Dickmann in the 2nd Ward, and Kyle Gripp for At Large. I would imagine that most of the existing council will run for reelection.

Speaking of the At-Large election and the existing council....
Davenport Alderman Gene Meeker won't seek reelection -QCTimes

This would seem to open up the door for Kyle Gripp to slide into Meeker's spot, unless a more experienced, funded candidate pops up. I was a year ahead of Mr. Gripp at Central, so I'm seeing a lot of Facebook support from my circles, but I'm not sure whether he has widespread support or not. It doesn't matter unless others run, of course. I do like his enthusiasm for Davenport, but when he mentioned his disapproval of a city-own casino as one of his reasons for running, that lost him some points in my book. The process was certainly handled badly, but if done correctly, a city-owned, Restoration St. Louis-built, professionally-managed downtown Casino could have been great for Davenport. Instead we're getting a cookie cutter interstate casino, although at least it seems to be leveraging some development nearby. Additionally, its great that RStL has continued forward with the City Square and Scott Community College projects where the casino would have been.

I'll save the Mayor stuff for another post.

School District Stuff

What kind of insane rule is it that Davenport School Board members can't comment on Davenport School Board business, especially with an election coming up? How are we supposed to know whether to vote for people if they can't comment on major issues, such as the potential JB Young closing. Its always been strange that School Board elections and politics get so much less scrutiny/interest from the general public, despite a similar amount of tax dollars going to them as to the City of Davenport for most Davenport residents. The idea that the electorate can't distinguish between one member's opinion and that of the entire school board makes absolutely no sense. Talk about the opposite of transparency.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Good ol' Days are back again

It was Throwback Thursday yesterday, except instead of old pictures, this one entailed a return to a City Hall full of casino-related drama and calls for Craig Malin to resign. Since "Casinos, City Hall Drama, and Calls for Craig Malin to Resign" could have been the title of this blog for most of its active existence, I figured I would put in my 2 cents on the matter.

If you haven't been following, here's a QCTimes article on the latest issue. Essentially, Mayor Gluba called a press conference to say that Craig Malin mislead the council on the fact that in addition to repaying the Dan Kehl for extending Elmore Avenue from where it currently ends all the way around to Jersey Ridge, the city would also be paying them back for the grading costs of their own land. The QCTimes have posted a bunch of relevant documents, including the addendum to the development agreement that spells out the inclusion of the grading costs. While there's some legalese, a careful reading of the addendum makes it pretty clear that the city is on the hook for the grading costs. Whose idea that was (I assume Kehl's), who negotiated it, who was told about it, or mislead about it, etc, are not included in the document. What is included... is this:
So... no matter how mislead he was, nearly a year ago Mayor Gluba signed off on a document that spelled out what he claimed not to know until 2 days ago. I'm not sure if he didn't read it, or was assured by Malin that it didn't mean what it clearly said. Now he wants Malin out, and is doing it in the typical press conference way that he does things. I've defended Mayor Gluba to a number of people on a number of issues, and I've criticized him as well. It seems like he's been acting a bit more erratically in the last few months, and I'm not including his vetoes in that. Nothing as serious as removing the City Administrator should be decided in 2 day's time, which appears to be what's happening here. There's no hurry here. Nothing will be gained by firing Malin today, vs next week or next month. Why not take some time and look into it a bit more?

Asking around yesterday, the consensus I heard was that he may have enough votes to carry this out, but it seems from their public statements that Aldermen Justin and Boom may not be voting for Malin's removal, and only 2 more votes to keep him (Meeker and Gordon?) are required for Gluba to lose this battle, further damaging is credibility. I honestly have no idea how the vote will go, and I'm not as in tune with what goes on at City Hall as I once was. If there's one thing anyone following Davenport politics over the last 14 years should know, it's not to bet against Craig Malin winning battles to keep his job.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Throwback Thursday! This picture was posted exactly 9 years ago. It was taken from the Crescent Lofts, and you can see that a lot has changed in that time. The new YMCA daycare is under construction, several buildings have been demolished within the W.G. Block property, and River Gulf Grain and Builders are gone from the riverfront. There will be even more changes in the next 9 years, as the new YMCA is built, Harbor View is renovated, the rest of the Block property is developed, and a new pedestrian bridge is built across River Drive. Pretty exciting stuff!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Summer Silents at the Bettendorf Library: Charlie Chaplin

 The Bettendorf Library is hosting a celebration of Charlie Chaplin's silent films this afternoon and evening. They've made this clever video as well. This is one of those great examples of the small world that is the Quad Cities, as this video involves people from my childhood and adult life who are connected by the Bettendorf Library.


There are activities in both the afternoon and evening - drop in for any or all! All library events are free, family friendly, and open to the public.

Bettendorf Room
3:00 pm: Lecture: Charlie Chaplin and Slapstick Comedy
On Faye’s Field
4:30 — 6:00 pm: Pie throwing fundraiser
4:30 — 6:00 pm: Face painting
4:30 — 6:00 pm: Kids' crafts
4:30 — dusk: Carnival picture "booth"
8:00 pm: Josh Duffee & His Orchestra
8:30 pm: Kid Auto Races at Venice, accompanied by The Josh Duffee Orchestra
8:50 pm: Silent Short film contest winners and awards
9:05 pm: The Kid, accompanied by organist Dennis Scott
In case of inclement weather, all activities will move indoors.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Davenport's new Ferris Wheel is almost done

Not much has been visibly happening on Modern Woodmen Park's new Ferris Wheel over the last week or two. Here's a shot of it from this morning.

But then what did I notice in the parking lot?

A flatbed full of Ferris Wheel cars waiting to be installed. Looks like this thing is going to be completely pretty quick. I'm looking forward to getting some new photo vantage points from the top.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Northeast Downtown Davenport Developments

With today's news that the former River Bend Antiques/Hibernian Hall building is being renovated into more apartments, I put together this map of what's been happening in this corner of downtown Davenport.

Blue are completed renovations, yellow-ish orange boxes are projects currently under construction, and red are announced but not yet started. Labels below the image.
These are all residential conversion renovations of existing buildings.
1. Renwick Building
2. Times Democrat Building
3. John Forrest Block
4. Mississippi Lofts/Adler Theatre
5. Hotel Blackhawk
6. Pershing Hill Lofts
7. 427 Pershing Avenue Lofts
8. 5th Street Lofts
9. Kerker Lofts
10. 4th Street Lofts
11. Crescent Lofts
12. Halligan Coffee Company Building

The block in the center of the image is the assorted collection of buildings formerly owned by TriCity Electric, which moved out to the old Showcase Cinemas site a few years ago. In other words, that block would be pretty ripe for the next set of red boxes, except for the fact that the railroad runs right through it.

Things are certainly going gangbusters for downtown Davenport lately, which might just be enough to bring me out of semi-retirement.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Don't forget, tonight is the Hilltop Campus Village's Fall Music Festival, featuring the Tons 'O Fun Band. Its free, fun, and a great opportunity to see the progress in the Hilltop. The festival is from 5-10PM at 15th and Harrison, across from the new Harrison Lofts.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Big things are coming