Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Louisville and Indy Trip: Part 2

About a week late, here are a few thoughts about the Indianapolis half of the Louisville and Indy tip.

The development is called White River State Park, because the state created what they believe to be the first urban, downtown state park. This allows for more state funding, but according to Executive Director Robert A Whitt, he is outside of the normal state park system and answers directly to the Governor. Mr. Whitt was also was the one kind enough to lead us on our tour of the park.

The park includes the Indianapolis Zoo, the Indiana State Museum (which appeared to be free) and IMAX Theater, the NCAA headquarters and Hall of Champions, Indy's AAA baseball stadium, the Congressional Medal of Honor Memorial, the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, and a variety of amphitheaters, plazas, and promenades.

Two other features stuck out in my memory. One is the Central Canal, seen below, which is a recreational and scenic canal that was built over the last 20 or 30 years. The other was the complete LACK of surface parking. I thought this was very strange, until Mr. Whitt pointed at a ramp descending under the front lawn of the State Museum and said that it led to an 829-space parking garage. For perspective, our MidAmerican building's parking garage holds about 880 cars.
It was quickly obvious that these projects are on a different scale than anything in the Quad Cities. Being the largest city in the state in addition to the state capitol allows Indianapolis to grab state money much better than we're able to. Near the park the new $625 million dollar NFL stadium for the Colts was being built with about 10 cranes, so that showed a lot of differences right there. I believe the total cost for the park project itself I heard mentioned was around $550 million.

Both Louisville and Indianapolis showed a huge amount of cooperation with their state governments, even personally involving the Governor in some cases. Why can't we do that here? Those cities are both the biggest in their respective states, but we're Iowa's front door, and one of the main metro areas. I'd like to see the state offer us some money, instead of us having to beg for our own gambling revenues to be given back to us.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Three unrelated articles

The first one is a rare outside-the-QC topic that just really pissed me off. Since when did a peace sign become something evil? Simplistic or naive I can handle, but evil? Come on.

A homeowners' association in southwestern Colorado has threatened to fine a resident $25 a day until she removes a Christmas wreath with a peace sign that some say is an anti-Iraq war protest or a symbol of Satan. -CNN

And back to Davenport, we have news on the Freight House. Actually its not really news but an article about the report that came out weeks ago (and was reported here) with some quotes from Steve Ahrens. That said, $200,000 to create a better feel for the Farmer's Market doesn't seem insane. I wish they would fish for private donations first though. Ten rich people donating $5,000 gets you a quarter of the way there without any public funds.

Report suggests Freight House has potential -QCTimes

And finally, an article about the building at 14th and Harrison I mentioned a couple days ago.

"Eyesore" comes down in Hilltop neighborhood -QCTimes

Hopefully I'll toss up some reactions from the Indianapolis part of the recent trip later today. It just didn't seem all that applicable to this area compared to Louisville, so I'm having trouble saying much about it.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

My thoughts on the possible casino move

Ok, here's the QCTimes article with the background information for anyone that hasn't read it. Its also been discussed on some of the local blogs, including relative newcomer Davenport Snarkiness, which I have added to the link bar upon commenter request.

Here's another thing that's important to this discussion. Its from the website of the Riverboat Development Authority.
The Riverboat Development Authority (RDA) was founded in 1989 for the purpose of becoming the qualified sponsoring organization for a riverboat casino in Davenport, Iowa. Iowa law requires that the gambling license be held by a non-profit organization.

In 1991 RDA received a gambling license in partnership with the President Riverboat Casino, which operated in Davenport until October of 2000. At that time, the casino was sold and is currently operating as the Rhythm City Casino. RDA approved the use of their license and the Rhythm City and RDA received a license from the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission at that time.

The way that reads to me, the RDA's purpose is to control the gambling license for a Davenport-based casino. That said, all the comments about the casino "leaving Davenport" appear to be baseless. If IOC decides that Davenport's casino isn't profitable enough for them, RDA could just find another casino company to operate their license.

As veteran blog-readers know, I supported the current casino hotel plan. I feel its a better solution than the current situation, which Isle of Capri could legally continue for many years. I also believe that there is some benefit to downtown to have this attraction, despite the fact that many people go directly to the casino, gamble, and leave. Basically, the visitors probably have a better chance of visiting downtown if they're already down there than they do out by I-280 or something.

So my feelings about any change of plans boil down to this:
Move it off the riverfront if you want, but it has to stay downtown.
If they insist on leaving the downtown area, they shouldn't receive a single penny in city assistance or tax breaks.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Too Busy to Blog Open Thread

Between Thanksgiving with the family, visiting the grandparents, erecting the Christmas tree, and having folks in from out of town, I've been to busy to finish of either of the three articles I'm working on.

Sometime in the next few days, look for posts on:
-The 2nd half of the Louisville/Indy trip
-The casino reversal
-Davenport's Design Center

Until then, what else is going on around town?
I've heard that the building being torn down at 14th and Harrison is going to be replaced by a building for the use of the church next door. It also appears that it will reuse the trusses from the building that's currently being demolished. Here's a picture I snapped while waiting at the light. You can see some of the old brick and stone foundations that have been uncovered during the demo.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm thankful we live in an area with the best river in the world, which gives us frequent chances to see beautiful sunrises and sunsets.

I will return to regular programming, probably starting with "Louisville and Indy: Part 2", tomorrow. Until then at least, lets try and keep it civil.

Happy thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Louisville and Indy Trip: Part 1

Today I'll cover the first half of the Louisville and Indianapolis trip that I went on this weekend, and tomorrow I'll hopefully cover the second half.

Twelve of us left from Public Works a little after 2pm Sunday, and headed down I-74 and I-65 towards Louisville, Kentucky. We stopped in Champaign for supper, and made arrived at the Galt House in downtown Louisville around midnight because of the time change. This is where we met up with Mayor Winborn, who had flown into Louisville directly from the Mayors' Institute on City Deisgn. A few of us attempted to go out for drinks, but apparently Sunday night at midnight isn't the most happening time down there, because we were unable to find anywhere open downtown.

Early Monday morning we headed out to meet with David Karem, the executive director of Louisville's Waterfront Development Corporation. He explained how they'd progressed through 20 years of land acquisition and development for their riverfront park.

After his presentation and discussion, we went into the chilly Kentucky morning for a guided tour of the project. Many of us expected that it would be warmer, considering we were in "the South." One thing that was clear was David Karem's complete enthusiasm for the project.

Here is a link to the .pdf map of the entire 3-phase development.

One of the biggest obstacles to the park idea was the large elevated highway running right down the river's edge through downtown Louisville. If anyone thinks that River Drive is a barrier between downtown and the river, imagine something ten times worse. There's even a website, 8664.org, dedicated to realigning the interstate around the waterfront. One of the ways that this psychological separation is currently addressed is the Great Lawn, which provides plenty of sightlines underneath the interstate. The Great Lawn is also lit with stadium lights until somewhat late at night. This gives people a place to play football, soccer, or whatever later than would usually be possible.
One of the differences between Louisville and here, besides their larger population, is that they have several corporations based there to beg for money. The other is that they are their state's largest city, and therefore have a lot of muscle in getting state money. Despite those advantages, I still felt like they went through a similarly slow process of raising money for the park that we'll be going through.
...unlike Indianapolis, but that's a story for tomorrow.

Let me know what else you want to hear about, because there's no way I can cover everything that was seen, heard and discussed over 2 days.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Monday morning open thread

Update at 7:15AM Tuesday: After getting home from the trip and then going to work an hour later, I now need sleep. Hopefully I'll post some reflections about the trip later today or tonight. I had a great time and saw a lot of great concepts and attitudes.

We reached Louisville last night at 10:30, which was 11:30 local time. We found out that midnight on a Sunday night is not exactly the most lively time here either.

We're now heading out to meet with the local riverfront development entitiy. Then I believe we'll be taking a chilly walk around the recent projects.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Festival of Trees Parade Images

Despite the chilly temperatures, it was an awesome turnout and a great parade. There were more big balloons than I remember in the last few years' parades. As always, I love to see big crowds having a good time downtown. Here are a few shots, and I'm hoping to post a link to a gallery of more images later tonight.Bob the Builder makes the turn onto 2nd Street.
Bob does a face-plant to get under the skywalk.There were tons of people watching from all the parking garages, skywalks, storefronts, or anywhere else they could stay out of the cold.
A Purple Heart-wearing soldier balloon.Santa and his modernized sleigh bring up the rear.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Stuff happening this weekend


Update: I added this picture of the balloons, ready and waiting, taken at 6am this morning.

Tonight (Friday)
: Special Festival of Trees events for rich people, and the Festival of Trees is now open. Here's the entire schedule of FoT.

Saturday morning:
Festival of Trees Parade 11am
This year its starting at River and Ripley and going down River Drive to Pershing, and coming back on 2nd Street. Here's a somewhat unreadable map from QuadCityArts of the route and parking. I'm hoping to make it down there after grabbing a few hours of sleep. Maybe this year I actually will.

Saturday and Sunday: Great Train Expo at the QCCA Expo Center from10am-4pm. Seven bucks for adults, kids under 12 free.

Sunday and Monday I'll be out of town with various folks from the city council, levee commission, etc visiting Louisville, KY and Indianapolis, IN to see what they're doing with their riverfront and downtown areas. I plan to have many photos upon my return.

Just try and find something bad about it...

New York retailer heads to Davenport -QCTimes

Steve & Barry’s University Sportswear will open next week in the former Eagles on West Kimberly. Honestly I hadn't even looked in that direction lately, so this is news to me. Its great news for the Village Shopping Center, which has been pretty quiet lately after losing some major tenants.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Blackhawk Hotel RFP

I'm not sure how well I can link directly to this stuff on the city's website, so I'll first explain where its all located on the website. If you go to the main page and click "Bids" over in the City Information box under Document Center, it will bring up a list of bids that are currently out. There are 8 pdfs relating to the Request for Proposal (RFP) for redeveloping the Blackhawk Hotel.

Here is the main document, minus most images (if the direct link works)

Many of the suggested plans seem to include hotel rooms on floors 3-7, possible residential uses on 8-10, and a restaurant or banquet room on 11 where "High Notes" was most recently located. The RFP also urges the developer to basically leave the Gold Room alone because it holds special meaning to Davenport and Quad City residents. I don't think that the potential developer has to follow these guidelines necessarily, but they are what the study recommended.

Here's a quote about what "kind" of hotel the city envisions:

The recommended hotel configuration is as a 100-room, mid-price, limited service hotel (e.g., Hampton Inn, Fairfield, Holiday Inn Express)

There are significant obstacles to attaining a higher-priced nationally recognized brand (e.g., Hilton Garden Inn, Courtyard by Marriott, Holiday Inn), including:
o Reluctance to consider conversion of an existing hotel property
o Additional renovation issues to comply with brand standards
o These brands are more expensive to build and require higher room rates than appear to be attainable in the local market


It will be very interesting to see how many proposals are submitted by the December 15th qualification deadline.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Tuesday Miscellany

I'll start off with 3 QCTimes articles that will probably lead to discussion and (hopefully) respectful debate.

City tries to clean up Linden mess -QCTimes
Looks like they've already torn a lot of it down, judging by the picture in the Times. I meant to drive by it this morning and I forgot. Now if we can just get the $90,000 that the owner is basically stealing from the city. I still hope somehow the Ledo/Shricker ends up biting the dust because of this.

JOD, Swing deals still not official -QCTimes
Hopefully they'll get this worked out, although I pretty much agree with the "againster" side on the idea of a 5% late penalty being too low. If the owners are frightened off by a higher interest rate, they must think that late payments are a possibility. This may mark the only time I ever agree with Susie Bell.

Homeless man charged in arson fire in city parking garage -QCTimes
Yeah... its not a headline I wanted to see, that's for sure. People are going to bring it up though, so I might as well just put a link in. Hopefully the whole topic's discussion doesn't center on this one.

And in other news:
-Here's the job description and such for the job of Housing Renewal Coordinator that's posted on the city's website. If SoLo's Ambrose Fulton were able, I bet he'd make an excellent candidate for this position. $20-21.20 an hour.

-I was down at the casino Sunday night (walked in with $5, walked out with $9) and I definitely noticed the results of this norovirus scare. The self-serve soda fountains were closed, the drinking fountains were turned off, and there were bottles of hand disinfectant about every 3 feet through the casino.

-Its $2 burger basket and $2 pint night at Bent River Brewery. Its one place that I wish would join the smoke-free campaign on its own, but I'll leave that debate for the Colonel's blog.

-Only 40 days until Christmas!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Guest post: West Locust

Here's a guest post from Pioneer98 of Bridge To Somewhere:

Steady progress on W. Locust

As I was checking out the construction progress of the apartment building near Locust & Washington St., I got to thinking about a lot of the buildings on that stretch of Locust that have gone up in the last 5 or so years:
- The new Northwest Bank on Locust
- Next door to that is a new strip mall (the one with Hungry Hobo & Cartridge World)
- Directly behind these two buildings is apartment building construction (pictured)
- Directly across Locust from that is a rebuilt Taco Bell (much more attractive then the old one, I might add)
- Just West of there, at 5 points, there is a relatively "new" Walgreens and Osco (now CVS) - these probably have been there the longest of any of this "new" stuff
- On Division, just South of 5 points, there is a newer Quad City Bank & Trust building
- A few blocks South of that is the IMAX Theater
- Just a little further West down Locust is a relatively new Hy-Vee
- Finally, there is a Jimmy John's restaurant going up near Marquette and Locust

All of these things, with the exception of the Hy-Vee, are concentrated on or near Locust between Division and Marquette. It's a very middle-class neighborhood, certainly not a wealthy one. I'm not trying to pretend that this area is "booming" or anything. It's just seen nice, steady progress. And with the exception of the Putnam & IMAX, I think it was pretty much done completely without tax dollars (correct me if I'm wrong).

I believe this is the kind of steady progress that the city would like to see in similar areas they are studying along Rockingham, Brady, and even other parts of Locust. The odd thing is, I'm not exactly sure what has made this area successful while others have floundered. I believe the Northwest Davenport Business Association may have targeted this area for redevelopment, but beyond that I really can't explain why this area would have an advantage. Whatever they are doing, perhaps it could serve as a model for the others.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Armistice Day Open Thread

Thanks to my Dad, my Grandpa, and all the other Veterans who kept us safe.

From the city's website:
"The [Veterans Day] parade will begin at Third and Pershing Streets (former Blackhawk Hotel parking lot) and go south on Iowa to Second Street, west on Second Street to Main Street, north on Main Street to Third Street returning to the staging area."
Now lets try and keep conversation in this thread civil in honor of the day. Hey... I can hope.

Friday, November 10, 2006

RiverHawks and K's

Here's a QCTimes article about our new ABA basketball team, the RiverHawks.

Looks like they had about 300 people at their first game, so I don't think they'll be moving up to the Mark anytime soon. I wonder why amateur basketball doesn't fly around here as well as the other 3 sports? Oh yes, and the ABA has 4-pointers.


Speaking of failures... (just kidding Acie, you know we love ya...)

I stopped in at K's Merchandise yesterday, and found that its not quite time to start checking it out every few days like I did with Sam Goody. Of course, with Sam Goody their prices weren't reasonable or comparable to Best Buy until they got to about 60% off. K's is at 20% off on most stuff, and 40 or 50% off of a few things. These store closing sales don't get really interesting until all that's left for sale are random hilarious things and the shelving.

Does anyone think Davenport could support another Best Buy or Kohl's or something in that location? I suppose it isn't far enough west.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A call to Alderman Meyer

With SoLo somewhat decommissioned until 2007, there needs to be a place for the give and take discussions about SoLo issues. I'm sad to say that many people are unwilling to enter the blog of someone with my views, so I don't know that this is such a place.

I believe Alderman Meyer should throw his hat into the blog publishing arena, and provide a forum for SoLo residents until the SoLo blog resumes.

Keith Meyer seems to have 10x the online presence of any other Alderman, although Hamerlinck and Frink at least make an effort. The 3rd ward is entirely SoLo, so a 3rd ward blog would be the ultimate place for these issues. It takes about 15 minutes to set up a simple blog, and maybe an hour for a customized one. I am not trying to take readers away from SoLo, because Ambrose Fulton has done a wonderful job running it and his views are needed and appreciated. However, 2 months is a long time, so I'd like to see at least a temporary fill-in.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The pendulum swings back

The results are in, (mostly) and we're back to a Democratic Congress... at least probably. Now all of you politicians who have been either slamming on the party in power, or the opposition party, switch places and begin again. Both parties can resume doing everything they can to screw the other party instead of working together, as is our system.

However, it still beats armed anarchy in the streets as far as methods of exchanging power go.

A few thoughts:

-Looks like Susie Bell will be able to remain a fixture at city hall, instead of heading to Des Moines

-Congrats to former Alderwoman Moritz for her return to politics. Makes you wonder where former Alderman McGivern would be minus the DUI?

-At one point, and I wish I'd taken a screenshot, CNN.com's running totals had a difference of only 10 votes in Virginia with over 1.5 million votes cast. So anyone who says 1 vote doesn't matter, keep that in mind.

-Do these folks really have inside info? Whalen's camp kept saying how Scott County was going to win them the election, and that they'd seen a big R turnout. Were they just wrong or knowingly keeping people's hopes up? If so, what's the point of that?

-My precinct, 33, had terrible turnout as usual. Here are the totals of actual voters vs registered voters over the last few years:
2002: 245/2051 or 11.95%
2003: 177/???? or ?% (at 2000 voters you get 8.85%)
2004: 516/1717 or 30.05% (Go Presidential Elections...)
2005: 167/1751 or 9.54%
2006: 282/1904 or 14.93%

Apparently we in the 33rd are much more interested in State and Federal politics than the local stuff. We also seem to trend heavily Democratic, voting over 2 to 1 for Kerry in '04. The 33rd precinct consists of the area from Gaines to the area near the Wonder Bread bakery, and then zig zags up to 7th and Perry, and then up to the north border, which zig zags between 12th, 13th, and 14th. See the map here. Its basically downtown and its northeastern neighbors. One interesting thing is the increase of 153 potential voters from 2005 to 2006. Some portion of that is probably increased downtown residents.

If central city residents want their concerns heard, they NEED TO VOTE.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day Open Thread & Illinois?

Everyone get out and vote, even if its for the Pirate Party.

Also, if there are any Illinois readers left... what's going on over there? Anything? Is this rock crusher/cement plant thing a big deal across the way?

Update: Voted about quarter to 5, and I believe I was only the 206th voter at the Scott County Administration Center (33rd Precinct). It appears that 516 people voted there in 2004, and 760 in 2005. I'm thinking I either read the machine wrong, or a lot of people vote after work.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Downtown living article

Here's an article in today's QCTimes about urban living.

If anyone knows someone interested in living down here, feel free to send them my way. Alexander Company has recently started a referral program. Since I've been preaching about the Lofts for 2 years now, I might as well get some credit off my rent for it.

Edit at 1:39PM: At Pioneer98's suggestion, here's another article from today's Times about a smaller scale renovation near the Centennial Bridge.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

2.6 Billion dollars would pay for....

2600 cops at $50,000 a year for 20 years
or
288 Skybridges at $9 million each
or
260 $10 million schools
or
21 $120,000,000 F/A-22 Raptor stealth fighters
or
74 F/A-18 Hornet attack fighters at $35mil each (threw that one in there for Huck)
or
4 space shuttle missions
or
1.7 million $1500 military bulletproof vests (a few more than our 1.4 million troops need)
or
6.5 million $400 laptops for underprivileged children

What did the USA decide to spend $2.6 Billion on?

1 2006 election

Friday, November 03, 2006

QCI may mean QC Idiot

I attended the Adler opening ceremony last night, and was all set to post a half dozen images of the new stage house and dressing rooms. However, as I was getting ready to walk in the front entrance of the theater, I figured I'd attempt a shot of the searchlights sweeping the sky above downtown.

I was rewarded with the unfortunate message: Battery Empty.

So maybe I'll get some pictures in another 75 years on the 150th anniversary...

Aside from my camera idiocy, it was a cool evening. Performances by the QC Symphony, the QC Opera and QC Ballet groups, and tours of the new areas.

Many of us were surprised to find out that the theater backstage area now goes all the way to Brady. There's what they call a "crossover" to get from stage right to stage left without crossing the stage, and it has windows looking right out onto the sidewalk along Brady. The other thing that impressed the heck out of me was the computerized curtain control touch screen. Graphical representations of all the curtains and backdrop rigging showed exactly what was moving where, and the electric motors were practically silent.

When the tour headed down under the stage, a lot of memories of my Central orchestra concerts came back, but I think that only one room was really recognizable after the renovations. The room where we used to pile our instrument cases is now the "catering room." From what I could tell, the new dressing rooms were carved out of the former basement of the Mississippi Hotel's west wing, and there was plenty of room for the most finicky divas. The old freight elevator has been replaced with an elevator moved by something similar to a Spiralift, which is kind of a slinky-powered jack. Go here or here to try and understand how it works. I just saw these kind of lifts on a documentary about a Vegas theater, so we must be world-class now.

The whole place really did seem top of the line, so I'm hoping we see a huge increase in the qualify and quantity of shows at the Adler, and more people coming downtown.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

New webcam & new 53rd St Strategy

I don't know how long this has been up, but I just noticed that on the webcams section of the Davenport site, there's a user-controlled webcam showing the progress on the new police station. You can also use it to see how many cops are in the station writing reports.


A year ago I never would have guessed that the 6 Aldermen that voted to hang on to the 53rd and Eastern land would do something like that. Many of them were elected in the "What is the city doing owning land at 53rd and Eastern??" election. I seem to recall one or more of them suggesting selling this land (possibly for less than was offered this time) to help pay operating expenses a couple years ago. Who knows around here.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Must-Read Reader Article

This article in this week's River City Reader explores the possibility that all these negative ads we're being blessed with are partly directed at scaring off unpredictable or undecided Independent voters.
"Independent voters in this formulation are variables that campaigns seek to neutralize or eliminate. Campaigns have become less about shaping opinion - winning or changing minds - than herding people whose votes are easily predictable and marginalizing those whose ballots are not."
I'm not sure if this is really what's going on, but its definitely worth considering. As someone who is registered Independent, I pretty much agree that these ads disgust me with "both" sides and make me less enthusiastic about the 2 party system in general. They don't quite bother me enough to where I "turn off and tune out," by not voting however.

Besides, I'm a local politics guy, so there'll be no endorsements from me this November.