Friday, December 28, 2007

Obama at the RiverCenter

Not a huge crowd, but I suspect the weather had something to do with it. I'll post or link to additional images/movies in the morning sometime Saturday.

Again, I remind folks that I'm registered Independent, and am not endorsing any kind of national candidate.

I'm always just glad to see politicians in Davenport that don't pose with cornstalks or hay bales.

Updated: None of my pictures turned out well, but fortunately Pioneer98 was there as well and took some much better ones. They can be found here.

One thing that I have to hand to the Obama supporters, is that they're the only folks to come to my door trying to get me to caucus for their candidate. They also came around during the three worst storms we've had this winter, including Friday's snowstorm. Of course, I had to explain to them that while caucusing does sound interesting, I'm not willing to register a party affiliation. The last guy was really insistent, making me wish I'd just told him I was a hardcore Republican to be rid of him.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Coming soon: 2008 QC New Year's wishes

Here is a link to my 2005 wishes. (I didn't do it in 2006)

To summarize, they were:

5. Reduce Crime (possible success?)
4. Help Prairie Heights Succeed (houses coming this Spring)
3. Continue the downtown "momentum" (slowed, but continuing)
2. Redevelop the former cinema/hotel property on North Brady (FAIL)
1. Follow Fly's Rule #3 (FAIL)

I could pretty much use the same 5 again, but I'm going to come up with a revised list sometime in the next few days.

What would you folks put on a list of New Year's wishes?

Also, I hope all of you had as busy and enjoyable of Christmas as I did.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmastime Assortment

R.I. gets down to six choices for Armory Park -QCOnline
(Make sure you check out the PDF of the plans linked to in the article)

Rock Island is moving forward with their post-casino plan, and it would sure be nice to say Davenport was able to do the same. Personally, as I've said before, I don't think RI's riverfront needs an amphitheater or bandshell, since Davenport's already has one, with an amphitheater planned for Crescent Park as part of River Vision. Rock Island needs to do their own thing instead of going after the same stuff that we already have. Out of the 6 options, I definitely prefer the no-Armory plan with the Arc Concept. Fortunately, it appears to be one of the 2 options moving forward with the RI council. Its great to imaging Davenport and Rock Island each having a beautiful redeveloped, casino-free riverfront, both connected via water taxi. Unfortunately, America's-most-screwed-up-state-candidate, Illinois, has found a way to possibly screw RI out of their hard fought casino money. If people thought Davenport's council needed a clean slate, I think Springfield needs to throw away the whole slate and get a new one.

Group musters support for Chicago-to-Quad-Cities passenger rail route -QCTimes
I just can't say enough about how important rail service is, but once again we're relying on the State of Illinois. A little over 3 hours, non-stop, into downtown Chicago sounds like a pretty big amenity for potential residents or companies looking at our area, not to mention those of us already here. If you haven't already, join the QC Passenger Rail Coalition to show your support.

River City dealership shut down -QCTimes
The New River City Ford wanted to redevelop the old Montgomery Wards Auto building at Northpark, but someone tattled to the city that an obscure law prevents it. I suspect the law, which bans cars from being sold from property not owned by the vehicle owner, was meant to stop impromptu car lots from sprouting up around the city. Something tells me the folks responsible for reporting this violation may be the very same folks who have been displaying cars in the mall without "selling them" for years. Hopefully something can be worked out to renovate that long-vacant building.

Eddie Bauer to close its doors in the Quad Cities -QCTimes
This isn't really anything of importance, but I just wanted to point out the other piece of information revealed in the article. Famous seller of overpriced pre-ruined clothes, Hollister, is replacing Eddie Bauer at Northpark. This officially kills my dream of them coming downtown to lure teenyboppers and their money to what could be a new "cool" shopping area. On the other hand, it speaks well of how healthy Northpark is (unlike Southpark) that a new store is basically waiting to take the spot of an exiting one.

And if you can't find something to comment on out of all that, you're not trying very hard.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A long read, but a good one

Robert Brownell's 5 days at the YMCA -Des Moines Register

This article is the story of a Polk County Supervisor, Robert Brownell, and his experience staying at their downtown YMCA residence hall for 5 days. Its long, (over 12,000 words), but in my opinion, very much worth reading. He's an excellent writer, and doesn't worrying about being PC or not offending anyone. At least in this article, he appears to tell it like it is, discussing both sides of the issue. He doesn't only talk about this specific problem, but also relates his experiences in discussing this with people out in Denver who are attempting to eliminate homelessness in their city.

For background, the downtown Des Moines YMCA has an 8-story residence hall attached to it. Because of its prime location along the up-and-coming Riverwalk, developers have shown interest in the property, and others have shown an interest in removing the "type" of men that hang out around the YMCA from their booming downtown. The first attempt was to move it to a residential neighborhood, which was met with a response that can be best compared to an 8 story Cobblestone. Here's a quote from the article regarding this:
"They set out to put their residence hall into a traditional neighborhood. There, they encountered modern government’s Maginot Line…someone else’s backyard. The place where nothing is permitted. Really, the only difference between this figurative Maginot Line and France’s famed Line is that the Germans figured out how to breach France’s. The one I speak of, cannot be breached. Oh, that the French had had our neighborhood associations and their line of defenses. Rommel would’ve been last seen in northern Germany sitting atop a Panzer scratching his head."
Now, before anyone jumps on me for posting this anti-NIMBY statement, the author eventually comes around and realizes that this kind of project in fact, doesn't belong in a traditional neighborhood. Like I said, read the article.

The only things I'm not comfortable with are his statements about how posing as a homeless person doesn't cost anyone anything, as long as he follows his rules. For example, he wouldn't stay at the YMCA if it was full, wouldn't interfere with anyone else's recovery, etc. However, we all learn that you can't observe something without affecting it, and even the few minutes of time he took with case managers and employees could have been spent with people who didn't have a nice home waiting for them. On the other hand, I've often thought of encouraging something like this in Davenport, for someone to see what the homeless/non-profit situation really is from the inside, instead of from an outside perspective, or based on what the agencies involved want to tell us.

So make up your own mind on whether this is the right way to look into something, and whether the Housing First policy is remotely realistic, but definitely read the article. Also, ask yourself if any of our local elected officials could write something this good.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

JOD to become Modern Woodmen Park

Modern Woodmen Park Unveiled

So the new owners managed to sell naming rights in less than a month, whereas Krause could never find anyone to pay what he apparently wanted. It could definitely have been a worse name (Lunchable Stadium?), and its nice that its a QC-based company as well.

The better news is that the new owners are planning to lower ticket prices for the upcoming season. Between dumping the unpopular name and decreasing ticket prices, hopefully they can generate enough community goodwill to start packing the stands again.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Overreaction Open Thread

Now, I'm not saying the streets are dry and you can drive normal speed, but at least as of 6:15 this morning they weren't as bad as they've been several times already this year. This time though, half the town and all the schools seem to be shutting down. Maybe they're still predicting all of this to freeze later, but right now its more slush than ice. I did a lot more stepping in 3 inches of slush or water than I did slipping on ice. The forecast shows the temperature going up slightly, so I can't image its going to get less slushy. I didn't hear many weather-related problems on the police radio last night either. I wish they canceled school this easily a decade ago.

But, since all of you teachers, students, etc have the day off today, I figured I'd post an open thread. I'm working on a post about my feelings on the Promise thing, so feel free to discuss that, or anything else.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

More Menards Stuff

From the first time I heard that Menards wanted to move to the Alta-Vista site, I wondered how that could possibly be enough room, especially considering their reason was "to expand." The weather tonight is not ideal for walking the site as Alderman Meyer suggested in the previous thread, though that sounds like a good idea if the property owners consent. Tonight though, I decided to compare the sites from space, using Google Maps. I was definitely shocked to see how much bigger the new site is than their current location, although I'm not sure how much of this area is actually owned by the nursery, where the moved frontage road will be, building orientation, etc. Here are the raw pictures, with my estimate of the areas involved highlighted in red.

Current Menards area (with clouds, unfortunately)
Proposed new Menards area
Make sure to note from the slider on the left that these are the exact same scale, and I'm not trying to fool with anyone. I don't have a lot of opinion on either side of this issue. Businesses wanting to expand is generally good, but I personally also like Menards' current store and don't know what more they need. I'm just trying to get information out there, especially if other people have the same misconceptions about the 65th Street area that I did.

My biggest concern is what happens with the current store, as I can't image that building being useful for anything besides a Menards. How many other uses need a lumberyard and a glass elevator?

The Great Wall of Menards

Davenport Council: Menards rezoning clears first hurdle -QCTimes

A few interesting quotes from this article:
After the vote, neighbors said they were disappointed but not surprised. Several said they think the deal has been in the works since the city’s comprehensive plan was updated more than a year ago to designate the land along Brady Street for future commercial zoning.
I've been hearing rumblings about Menards on that property for quite a while, so I could easily see this part being true. Personally I think it makes more sense to locate on the southeast corner of that intersection, but I don't think the neighbors have much of a case here either. I don't see how anyone would move in there with the expectation that a plant nursery will continue to be the use for that busy intersection property for all time.
Since it first proposed the rezoning, the company has agreed to build a 50-foot “green space” barrier between its property and the neighbors in addition to an 8-foot-high earthen berm, a row of trees and a 14-foot fence, all designed to limit noise and create a visual barrier between the store and residences. Rohlfs said his family has offered to plant mature conifer trees from the nursery along the berm.
Hey, can we get a minefield and some coils of razor wire thrown in as well? I find that this is pretty funny in relation to yesterday's conversation of the previous post about connecting retail and residential. Now, I know you're probably not going to walk to Menards and walk back carrying 10 sheets of plywood and an air compressor or something, but I guess the Muscatine store does have a grocery section. Maybe they'll leave a gate or checkpoint in the 14-foot fence. It just seems a little excessive. Instead of living next to a home improvement store, it'll be more like living next to a prison.
The concerned neighbors got some legal advice from Meyer. He recommended that they continue to do their homework and make note of city staff errors in case they decide to challenge the pending rezoning in court.
“We do a lot of things wrong in the city, especially from a legal standpoint,” he said.
When Meyer asked interim corporate counsel Tom Warner if he could give the neighbors advice, Warner told Meyer it is typically not city policy to assist potential litigants looking to sue the city.
This one pretty much speaks for itself. Is it January yet?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Prairie Heights Progress Picture Post

Why, what is that skinny strip of blacktop in the image to the right? I do believe that would be the very first alley North of Kimberly. Garages face the rear alley? This means that the residents of this neighborhood will look across the street and see houses facing them instead of 3 car garages. It must be Prairie Heights, Davenport's first attempt at New Urbanism. I've got a map of the neighborhood at the bottom of this post if you're curious how its supposed to work. It wasn't exactly a nice sunny photo-friendly day yesterday, but I still went out to check out the progress.

If you click on the above image I took facing south towards 53rd, you can see the baseball diamonds shown on the map to the right. The road connecting the neighborhood to the park (possibly called Country Lane) ends in the foreground of this image. I assume it is to be completed sometime in the spring. The plan to the right is outdated, as you can see from the map below, but it kind of shows the relationship between 53rd, the park area, and the neighborhood. I may try to acquire a more up-to-date plan for the whole project, and post it later.

The plan, last time I saw it. It may have changed since then, although after driving these streets I feel its still fairly accurate. Yes, those are 30' wide lots, and again, yes, those are alleys.

Over on the other side of the railroad tracks, I took this shot looking East from 65th behind the old cinemas. The controversial 65th/67th Street connection looks to be graded and ready for paving in the spring. This should really make the 65th and Brady intersection (where Menard's is going) look a lot better to potential developers. Hopefully one will come along who's interested in redeveloping the old cinema and hotel properties.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Storm Approaches: Open Thread

It sounds like we may actually get something out of today's storm, unlike the Thanksgiving Eve false alarm. Seems like a great to stay inside and blog, or in my case, sleep. Here are a couple of headlines from this week that caught my eye.
(EDIT: Obviously the storm is pretty much past, so I'll try and have a new post this afternoon evening Whenever)

New York firm proposes hydroelectric stations in Davenport, Muscatine -QCTimes
This one has got to be one of the strangest articles I've ever read relating to Davenport. Some random company is hoping to build a hydro plant that "would measure 245 feet long by 160 feet wide by 60 feet high" somewhere near the Lock and Dam in Davenport, but doesn't bother contacting the city? I don't know how far away from the source of water this could be built, but I don't think anything like this belongs south of River Drive. If they could build it underground, it could be turned into some kind of green energy tourism attraction under the riverfront, but that doesn't seem possible with the floods. Who knows!

Davenport-made 'Sugar' to premiere at Sundance -QCTimes
A movie that may be about a minority struggling to play minor league baseball in the evil, racist, oppressive city of Davenport? Is this even a good thing? Hopefully that's not the theme of the movie at all, but its what I'm hearing. This is Davenport, people, a city with a fairly diverse population, not some hick town where we've never seen non-whites. I wonder if this is related to the hurry to change the Swing's name.

And to finish things off, an assortment of random images. (Note: I found a fix for the images, which requires me to edit html code. Not doing that is one of the things I like about blogs vs a website)

Here we have Black Friday madness. On the left, the moon hides behind Barnes and Noble before dawn. On the right, Menard's enthusiasts park everywhere but in lanes of traffic. Good times!

Here are a couple of shots from the jail tour, which was overtaken by Holiday Balloon Parade images a couple Saturday's ago. The image on the left is the new way visits are conducted, which is through a closed circuit TV system, and the image on the right is one of the "day rooms" where most inmates will spend their days. It may look nice, but try spending a month there. Its no hotel.