I attended Jeff Speck's lecture last night at the Figge, but due to various issues wasn't able to write a post about it until now. Cruiser has already posted his impressions of the evening here.
As others have said, the turnout was excellent. People wearing everything from a bicycling outfit, to jeans, to suits, which is great. There were people standing along the aisles of the auditorium in the Figge, and he seemed very well received. I wondered how many people were there for the free museum admission and free grub, but the number of people buying his book and having it signed after the event really showed that many of the people were really into Speck's points.
As far as the lecture itself, it was pretty textbook new urbanism stuff. Jeff pointed out during his talk that planners and others familiar with new urbanism may find it a bit basic. Many of the topics, such as building narrower streets, alleys, houses that look like houses instead of garages, and walkability have been discussed around this and other local blogs. I think this is the perfect introduction to this topic for people who have only heard a bit about new urbanism, or maybe have just a passing familiarity. This makes sense, since the lecture was taken in part from the Mayors Institute on City Design. I can definitely see it having an impact on people who were elected for skills other than city design and planning. One thing that I really have to commend him on was his illustrative images. He's been able to find intersections, developments, and photo angles that really show the downsides of suburbanization. Some of the sprawl images caused an obvious negative reaction from the crowd.
Mr. Speck admitted to not knowing all that much about Davenport and the Quad Cities specifically, and even hinted at coming back sometime to give a lecture that is directed more at our particular issues. I think this would be a great thing, especially now that at least 150 people are familiar with the concept. One of the only things that I took issue with was his criticism of the Skybridge. He discussed how strange it is to build a parking garage away from a casino, build an enclosed bridge from there to the boat, and have people walk over downtown without ever hitting the streets. I agree that that would be strange, but disagree that that is the point of the Skybridge. To me it will always be an observation bridge and landmark, and after the boat leaves that will become even more obvious.
All in all, it was a great event, and it was good to see so many people out at the Figge for something related to city planning and design. I was able to meet Jeff Speck, and I now know that he's at least been shown both this blog and Cruiser's. I'll be very interested in the results if he takes a closer look at the QC area and comes back with his specific suggestions for our issues.