Friday, February 29, 2008

Friday Assortment

First of all, the Design Center is out of Davenport Architecture book, but still may have a few copies of "Davenport: where the Mississippi runs west" left. I'm glad to see the interest that people had for these books. It makes me think there are more than a few of us out there who are interested in that kind of thing.

Don't forget: Tomorrow morning is March's Winter Farmer's Market at the Freight House. It starts at 10am and lasts until 3pm, and is located at the west end of the building, near the new playground.

Here's a somewhat long article from The Atlantic called The Next Slum? about the potential for the fall of suburbs. It covers a wide variety of subjects, from increasing gas prices to the fact that when people think of "hip" or "trendy" places nobody thinks of the suburbs. Ask someone my age whether a downtown loft condo or a house in "Eastern Avenue Farms" is the cooler place to live. The name "Eastern Avenue Farms" reminds me of the saying that most suburbs are named after the geographic landmark they destroy.

A preservation-minded reader sent me a link to this page
about the renovation of 822 Gaines by the Gateway Redevelopment Group
. If Reverend Marty thinks 2101 Main is bad, his head would explode if had walked through this home before the GRG got ahold of it. Oh yeah... with volunteer labor (not that a church would have access to something like that) it cost less than $100k to renovate.

Over on Cruiser's blog, former-Alderman Nikolas commented his feelings in defense of Fejervary Zoo. I don't always agree with Mr. Nikolas, and I possibly don't on this topic either, but I do think people are rushing into closing the zoo a little excessively. They already got rid of the truly exotic animals like snakes and monkeys, which was supposed to solve some of the problems. Apparently now they have to ditch "exotic" stuff like wolves. Growing up I always heard stories of my parents panning for gold, riding the donkeys, and other fun stuff at Mother Goose Land, and I think a lot of people would love to see those days return. It will never be Niabi, and I don't think it has ever tried to be. Maybe kids these days wouldn't be into that stuff anymore, but I know that 15 years ago or so I sure would have been. I'd at least like to see some future plans for that park before the city permanently closes it.

Finally, D1 has a list of construction projects going on downtown right now. It can be found at this link. To their list I'd also like to add the continuing work on the Freight House complex, the slow destruction of the cement plant at 4th and Iowa, and the fact that construction is starting on the former Salvation Army building's conversion into loft apartments. Edit: It turns out an even better D1 link, with some of the projects I mentioned, can be found here.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Free books!

(Books don't look as bad as my low-quality scanning portrays them; they didn't want to lay flat on the scanner)

From the city of Davenport's website:

The City of Davenport has recently found a number of books that document Davenport’s rich architectural history and is offering them free to the public. Davenport – where the Mississippi runs west was produced in 1982 by then Davenport City Historian Marlys Svendsen, among others. Davenport Architecture – Tradition and Transition, a supplement to the first document, was written in 1984. Both these publications contain numerous photographs as well as extensive text and descriptions of the buildings, styles, architects and builders that helped shape our community.

The books were located in storage in the former ice house at the Annie
Wittenmyer Complex. If you would like copies, visit the City of Davenport Design Center at 102 E. Second Street, across from the Radisson Hotel or call 563-326-7743.

If you're at all into Davenport history and architecture, you've probably run across these two books at a local library over the years. Now you can get them for free by stopping down at the Design Center, which is a good place to stop into once in a while anyway. I think its pretty cool that these were discovered after probably a decade in storage.

Also, check out Page 34 of "Davenport Architecture: Tradition and Transition" for a picture and a small blurb about a certain 2101 Main Street, also known as the Henry Deutsch House.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

QC Flames 2008 Jersey Auction

Friday night was the annual Genesis Jersey Auction after the Flames game.
Here's the QCTimes article about both the game and the auction.

Carsen Germyn got a hat trick on his birthday, it was the second highest attendance this season, and the Flames won 6-2. The game was great, and the auction was even better than I expected. Over $30,000 was raised for charity. In between the auctioning, seen above in the video, were various skits and contests. Dodgeball on the ice, a home run derby on the ice, sumo wrestling on the ice, figure skating, and stripping, all done by AHL hockey players. It's definitely something you can't see anywhere else. Pretty much all of those things can be found on YouTube already.

The QC Flames logo at center ice, and the game's First Star, Carsen Germyn.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Dumb comments of the year, so far

Church says it can't rehab historic home -QCTimes

Here are the two quotes I found humorous.

“The issue here is whether government can tell you to take your dollars and put them into a building,” he said. “The city would be forcing the church to take money from its congregation to preserve the property. This is an issue of basic private property rights.” -Alderman Hamerlinck

“It’s easy for us to sit here and tell people what they can and can’t do,” he said. “But unless we are willing to cough up the bucks, this is really a form of condemnation.” -Alderman Lynn

O.... K.....

So now the city can't tell private property owners what they can and can't do with their property? Well, I guess that means that residents can build an addition that goes right to their property line, stop shoveling their walks or mowing their yard, start storing rusty cars in their backyards, build a 10 story building with bare 22 gauge wiring for all electrical outlets, have unmarked doors that open into 50 foot chasms, and of course tear anything down that they own, no matter how historic. They also can't be forced to maintain property they have bought, because that would be "forcing them to spend money." Strange, but I think Shawn just insisted that we do that to Menards.

Wait a second, none of that's true, because we very much DO tell people what they can and can't do. Its called codes, zoning, laws, etc. Historic properties are just one more of the many ways that communities do indeed control what people do with their private property. I guess neither of these Alderman teach that class.

As far as Shawn's comment, I don't see where the city is forcing the church to spend any money. If their plan to renovate the house has failed, they should sell it. If I bought 20 acres in a residential area to build homes, but it turned out I didn't have the money, I couldn't just build a factory instead. I would have to bite the bullet and sell the land. It seems clear that the church either made a mistake by buying this home, or planned all along to use it for much-needed parking for their large new sanctuary. I really don't want to accuse a church of lying, so I'll assume they just made an unfortunate mistake. I don't see why this historic home should suffer for it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Taco Bell, Nice Restaurants, Libraries

What do those 3 things have in common? Nothing really, but I have something to say about each of them.

As a third shifter, I frequently find myself awake at odd hours on weekends. If you have to go to Wal Mart, 3AM on a Sunday night is definitely the least bad time to go. I've found that Davenport has a decent amount of places to get some fast food late at night, at least for a non-college town. Actually more stuff is open here than where I went to college... But anyway, one of my frequent favorites late at night is the Taco Bell on West Locust (Open until 5am every day). It seems to be a favorite of nearly everyone awake at those hours, and I'd imagine that they get a lot of the post-bar crowds. This past Saturday around 3am there were around a dozen cars in the drive-through, and I saw at least another dozen turn away when they saw the line of cars. It definitely seems to me that either A. one of our existing Taco Bells should stay open this late, or B. We could use another Taco Bell. The closing of the Duck Creek Plaza location probably didn't help that.

Everyone will jump on me for advocating a national fast food chain, but so be it. I think we're ready for a Taco Bell (or a similar mom & pop local rendition) in downtown Davenport. Chipotle would work too. It could serve the downtown workers for lunch, the new downtown residents for supper, and the bar crowds of both Davenport and Rock Island for late night (4th Meal, as they call it). Downtown Davenport has no Mexican or TexMex food options that I know of, and while there obviously couldn't be a drive-through, its probably better for the post-bar crowd not to be driving anyway. My suggestion is for the under-renovation One Putnam Centre's Parker Building.

I was looking for a nice place to go out to eat Sunday night, and even resorted to flipping through the phone book. Now, my definition of nice is somewhere that I don't feel comfortable in jeans. Centro fit that definition, despite their claims to the contrary. I realized that Davenport has very few "nice" places to eat. Duck City is too nice for me, by the way. I came up with this QC list: Steventons, Farraddays, Red Crow Grille, the Faithful Pilot, Bass Street Chop House, Le Figaro, and MAYBE Biaggi's, The Lodge, Johnny's Italian Steakhouse (haven't been) and The Brown Bottle. We ended up going to The Brown Bottle, which was the first time for me. I was pleased with the experience, although as we were walking in a young woman came out wearing jeans! I'm sure I'm forgetting some places around the QC, as this isn't my usual dinner category. I'd say I'm more the jeans type than the fancy type, but apparently so are most of us. Centro, 225 at the Figge, High Notes, Savitri's, and others make up the beginning of an unfortunately long list of "nice places" that have closed in the last 8 years or so. I didn't make it to Portabella's before it closed to even find out how nice it was. It seems like we enjoy having nice options, but don't patronize them enough for many to survive.

And finally, the library story.
Despite being accused of going along with everything, which I don't, I'm not in favor of this "fast-tracking" of the new library before the money is even pledged by donors. I would at least expect the developers out there, including Mr. Schalk, (who is involved in the sprawl neighborhood across Eastern from Prairie Heights) to come to the table with hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to ante up for the library. After all, they apparently need it as an amenity for their subdivision. I would that think their declining the city's suggestion to build their development as a traditional neighborhood should NOT make the city want to jump at spending money to enable their success.

As for the Prairie Heights subdivision itself, I think that rather than hoping the city builds a library sooner, a good way for Ruhl & Ruhl to market the project is for them to try marketing the project. Every Sunday I read the real estate section and look for any mention of the first attempts at a New Urbanist neighborhood in the Quad Cities. Every Sunday I see ads for dozens of sprawling, bland, typical subdivisions full of new construction, with no mention of the upcoming Prairie Heights neighborhood. What are they waiting for? In their defense, they do have a tiny page for it on their website, and I have heard that model homes are planned for the Spring. I'm no Realtor or marketing specialist, but it sure seems like they'd want to build some hype for this potentially trend-setting project. Instead the top 3 results for a Google search for Prairie Heights Davenport are the QCTimes, the City of Davenport, and this blog. Where's the website bragging of the benefits of a traditional neighborhood?

Considering the wide-ranging topics of my 3 sections, feel free to use this post as an open thread.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

My thoughts on the Da Vinci exhibit

Tuesday I had an opportunity to see the "Leonardo Da Vinci: Man | Inventor | Genius" exhibit at the Putnam. I'm a pretty nerdy guy, so seeing some of his assorted inventions created in the modern world, and being able to use (play with) them was pretty appealing to me.

Personally, I enjoyed it plenty, which I'll get into later. But... I had free tickets. The exhibit is $12, which to my surprise does not include admission into the rest of the museum. I didn't even realize that the Putnam had the capability to do this, but they do, and I think it actually worked quite well. You go in a separate door into the theater area, and then through there into the exhibit area. I could definitely see them doing something like this again in the future. Extra special exhibits, with an extra fee, have become pretty common at museums around the country. I paid probably around $12 extra beyond regular admission at the Phoenix Science Center to see a traveling James Bond exhibit. So was it a good deal for people paying $12?

If you're a Da Vinci fan, I would definitely say it is worth it. There are literally dozens of wooden models of some of the many things he sketched and invented. There are also a number of computer screens scattered around the exhibit with 3D animations of how those inventions, and others, would work in the real world. One of my few complaints with the exhibit itself was that the computer program didn't seem that polished, but it was pretty easy to understand, and all the screens were working. One of the complaints I had heard about the exhibit was that some of the things weren't working, which wasn't the case on my visit. All of the pieces that you could operate seemed to be working fine. There was indeed a bucket under a leak in the roof, but hey, "you go to exhibits with the museum you have." I hate when museums have broken exhibits, so I was glad that ours didn't. There were several school groups there at the time, and the kids seemed to be enjoying all the hands-on activity just fine.

The verdict? If this exhibit had been in the regular museum, it would have probably been the best exhibit they've ever had. Even doubling the museum admission price to $12 during the exhibit would have been fine by me. As a stand-alone exhibit for $12, I felt it was a bit steep. I was also disappointed that they don't offer discounts for museum members, which my sister is. Don't start chalking me up as a negative guy now, I did like the exhibit. I just hope that if the Putnam gets traveling world-renowned exhibits again, they include regular museum admission with the special ehxibit price.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Blogger's Block Open Thread

I've been meaning to post something the last few days, but I've got nothin. Since my car show picture thread failed to gather any comments whatsoever, here's an Open Thread.

I should be visiting the Da Vinci exhibit today, so although I doubt they allow cameras, I may at least have my take on the exhibit.

I wonder if not having council members in and out of jail, in the news for various issues, or suing anyone is making for more boring blogging? Or maybe its just this dang weather.

Friday, February 08, 2008

2008 Iowa-Illinois Regional Auto Show

The car show is runs through Sunday, at the River Center in Davenport. You can print out a coupon for $1 off at the show website.

The Corvette engine, and the Chevy SS concept car.

The Mustang Shelby Cobra GT500, and one of my new choices in cars, the Dodge Nitro. Either would make an acceptable gift to your favorite (or least favorite) blogger.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Snow Day

Believe it or not, this is a color picture

After watching people struggle to make it up Brady Street hill, and listening to the police try to close the Division Street hill, I would definitely recommend that everyone stay home today if at all possible. I'm not sure why the streets are so bad, since we haven't gotten more than 6" of snow at this point, but they are rough. I suppose its due to the thick slushy snow, or the fact that we had alternating rain, snow, freezing rain, and sleet all night. Its nasty.

Stay inside and participate in rousing and educated blog discussions about topics of your choosing.

Added Thursday: I don't think that we ever got TWO snow days in a row when I was in school.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Impending Storm #45 Assortment

I'm a self-proclaimed winter person, but this year is getting a bit ridiculous! I still prefer shoveling to mowing though.

Anyway, here are a few local news articles that caught my eye:

Wild Wednesdays on tap for Flames -QCOnline
The Flames are starting a new promotion for typically low-attendance Wednesday games. You can get upper bowl tickets for 5 bucks, and 12oz beers for 2 bucks. We'll see if the attendance increases, and if so, whether problem fans increase as well.

R.I. council chooses Armory Park design -QCOnline
Its hard to tell from the image on QCOnline (Note to them, enough with the watermarking already) but so far the plan seems alright. Here's the page with the final two options they had to choose from, although it sounds like they went with somewhat of a mixture of the two. The only thing I'm not big on is the ripping off of Millennium Park. Are the Quad Cities not good enough to come up with our own look?

Production director expects job cuts at KWQC -QCTimes
KWQC continues their depressing quest to lose their longtime #1 position for local news. I would definitely like to see the station be locally owned rather than watch them be screwed over because of Young Broadcasting's continued ineptitude. I'm no media expert, but I know that if I were Paula Sands, Marcia Lense, Sharon DeRycke, Mike Mickle or even Gary Metivier I'd be getting nervous. It seems like Young is ditching people who have been with their stations long enough to be paid well. This would be where I link to, where you can join the 3 dozen others showing their support on this little-known website.

Don't forget to consult this list of Ward Meetings, including tonight's in the 1st Ward with Alderman Brown.

Friday, February 01, 2008

The Skatepark in Winter

Davenport's skatepark, newly covered with snow. Kraft/Oscar Mayer is in the background.