Thursday, August 28, 2008

And God said, Let there be Parking

And a historic home was struck down, and parking flowed forth.
And God saw... that it wasn't good at all.

Effort to save the Deutsch House hits the bricks -QCTimes

Does anyone know if they even let Habitat ReStore in there to harvest any salvageable materials or architectural features? I wonder if they wanted to kind of sneak this up on people to avoid a public protest or something.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Monday's Good, Bad, and Indifferent

I kind of liked this format when I used it for the downtown comings and goings a while back, so I'm going to use it again.

The good:

The Blackhawk Hotel building getting $8.5 Million in tax credits. Check out Restoration St. Louis's website to see some of the things they've done with historic buildings. The $42 million renovation of the 15-story Coronado Hotel is particular applicable. Bonus good to the Forrest Block getting some state money as well. Hopefully it can get back on track.

The former Creative Tile building's reconstruction getting under way. This area at the foot of Oneida has a lot of potential, and hopefully something can be done with the site of the in-limbo Oneida Landing project.

What seems to have been a successful River Roots Life/Ribfest downtown on 2nd Street.

The new owners of the River Bandits. I never could have guessed that anyone could make as big of a positive impact on Davenport's baseball experience in only one year as they've made. I've seen several games listed with over 6,000 in attendance, which hadn't happened for years prior to this season. I'd much rather have 4,000 people pay $5 to watch a game than sit there with 2,000 people who paid $10 and have empty seats everywhere. And cheaper prices are only part of what these new guys are doing down there.

The bad:

John Lewis's problems. While people seem to take a disturbing amount of pleasure from the misfortune of the JLCS folks, and their clients, they may be missed in the community. The overextended themselves so much that this seems like it was bound to happen, but I don't think their failure is going to be a positive for downtown as suggested elsewhere.

Moline's Kone Centre project's continued troubles. Ten or twelve stories is nice, but hardly the massive impact that an 18 or 20 story building would have on the QC's skyline.

Taylor School not getting tax credits. While I put the Blackhawk at the top of the impact list for these tax credits, Taylor School is probably next. See below for who I don't think should have gotten them.

Me, for not posting enough lately. I'll try to remedy this one.

The indifferent:

The former Salvation Army building renovation (RiverWalk Lofts, Riverview Terrace Apartments?) getting tax credits in the same lottery as the Blackhawk and Forrest block. Section 42 housing isn't terrible, (people making less than $24,000 aren't what I'd call poor) concentrating people of one income level is not a good thing.
The perfect example is a comparison between the Crescent Lofts and the Mississippi Lofts. The Cresecent Macaroni, Waterloo Mills, and 4th Street buildings managed by Alexander Company are 2/3rds Section 42, 1/3rd market rate. There are very few problems. The Mississippi Lofts only have 4 market-rate apartments, and 42 income-limited Section 42 units. I hear the police called to the Mississippi Lofts on a weekly basis. Last night there was a stabbing there, along with the Shricker. Concentrating lower incomes together does not work. Also, management helps. I don't know much about the management at the Mississippi Lofts, but Lisa Stang, the property manager of the Crescent buildings, is excellent at tossing out people who cause trouble. When there are waiting lists for downtown apartments, there's no need to rent them to criminals.
Hopefully management of the building on River Drive can make up for the all income-limited units, but a better idea is to have some market rate units mixed in.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Jeff Speck's ideas for downtown Davenport

Now that I'm slower than even the mainstream media, I guess I'd better post my reactions to Jeff Speck's presentation at the Figge last Thursday night.

For background, here's the QCTimes article about it, here's their editorial about it, and here's a blog post about it from Information Swimming.

Now, one of the things that didn't make it in the QCTimes articles was that Mr. Speck never expected every one of his suggestions to be utilized. His phrase was that he was throwing a lot of stuff at the wall to see what sticks. The Design Center and I believe the Downtown Partnership will be working on more public input sessions about downtown improvement ideas.

Another misconception is that Jeff Speck suggested moving the Freight House Farmer's Market out of downtown. In fact, he suggested moving it farther INTO downtown, and onto second street. I understand where he's coming from in wanting to combine the popularity of the farmer's market with the success of the 2nd Street corridor, but I think the Freight House area could be the next success story and shouldn't be given up on. Second Street is great, but it doesn't have the river views or historic Freight House as a backdrop. The area of the Freight House was one of the few suggestions that I disagreed with.

One of the things I really liked were his suggestions of smaller buildings to fill in missing areas. One idea was to take out a couple of the drive-through lanes at the USBank on 2nd Street and replace them with a skinny building shielding the rest of the drive up from the Figge plaza. Plazas feel more like plazas when they're surrounded by buildings on 3 or 4 sides. As far as bank drive-up lanes, Mr. Speck correctly pointed out that you rarely see them full these days. The drive-up lanes near the Figge and the library on Main are both taking up land that could have better uses.

Another good infill idea was to build a narrow building along the east side of Iowa Street between 3rd and 4th street to connect the Crescent Warehouse District down to the 2nd Street corridor. Right now you have to walk between a demolished cement plant and a large parking lot, which doesn't provide a welcoming impression.

As you can see from the few things I've mentioned, a lot of the suggestions weren't for public improvements, but for areas ripe for private development. One of the problems that was mentioned at the presentation was that local banks are unwilling to finance condos downtown. Considering the extremely high occupancy rate of the apartments downtown, I have yet to understand why both banks and developers are so wary of trying condos and market-rate apartments. Something is going to have to change on this front for downtown to really take off like I feel its close to doing.

I'm going to stop there for today. Jeff had a lot of good ideas, but having visuals really helps. I'm hoping to be able to get a copy of the map that was shown at the presentation, and hopefully a video of the entire presentation will soon be available somewhere online.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Rough night for emergency workers

Last night was a busy one for police, medics, and firefighters.

There were shots fired near the Kwik Shop at Locust and Harrison, involving Phillip Bogan, who you may remember was charged in connection with the shooting on East 14th back in May. It sounded like he wasn't the shooter, but may have been the target. I think it really is about 1% of Davenport's population that both causes , and is victimized by, 90% of our violent crime. Nobody got shot, but I don't believe the shooter was caught either.

Then later this morning there was a car-motorcycle collision near Menards, which didn't sound too good for somebody. When the cops call out the accident investigation team right away, its never a good sign. Welcome Way was also closed for a while.

Less than an hour after that there was a head on collision in front of Sudlow on Locust, with at least 3 people injured. There were also some other medical calls around that time, so even though 4-5am is usually a quiet time for firefighters, I think quite a few of our companies were out on EMS calls. It will also be interesting to find out later if alcohol was a factor in either or both of these accidents.

Hopefully all the injured are ok, and thanks as always to our first responders.

Also: My Jeff Speck article is delayed again, but Pioneer98 has a post about it here.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday Morning Open Thread

Later today I hope to write a few things about last night's presentation by Jeff Speck, but for now I'll just put up an open thread.

In other news, there's a good write-up in the QCTimes about the HAPPEN program. Hopefully as houses are successfully renovated, more people will see this great program and take advantage of it.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Don't forget: Jeff Speck at the Figge tonight

Here's a quick article about it in the QCTimes.

Doors open and (I believe) appetizers at 5:30, with the actual presentation at 6.

I was able to spend some time with Jeff Tuesday night, and I'm interested to see what recommendations he can come up with for downtown Davenport. Like many outsiders, he seems to see that we have potential more than some of our residents can see. I also heard that the Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan thought Davenport was a neat town. Now we just have to convince the vocal minority of Davenporters who hate their city.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Smashing Pumpkins at the Adler

Friday night the Smashing Pumpkins opened their tour with a great show at the Adler Theatre. They had been rehearsing for their tour at the Adler for much of the week, and several fans met or spotted various band members around town, including Billy Corgan. He was seen at the Woodfire Grill, Shogun, Greatest Grains, and some local antique stores.

Like last year's Wilco concert, this is another "big deal" for the Adler and really the whole Quad Cities. People traveled from many states to see this concert, and I would say it all went off without a hitch. There was infinitely more security present than the Wilco concert, and the crowd seemed very well-behaved anyway. Here's a link to a thread on a Smashing Pumpkins forum talking about the show. Beware, as it has plenty of ads and swearing.

The concert was more targeted at serious fans of Smashing Pumpkins rather than the ones, like me, who only knew a few of their more popular songs. One part I really liked was Billy Corgan doing a bit of Jimi Hendrix and blaring out a feedback-filled rendition of the Star Spangled Banner during their song United States. It was also a heck of a loud concert.

Here's a video I took of one of their most popular songs, Bullet With Butterfly Wings.

In a surprise move, to me at least, the encore consisted of the Pumpkins' song "We Only Come Out at Night", with kazoo solos, followed by a cover of Mungo Jerry's "In the Summertime," also with kazoo solos. They appeared to be having a good time, but the spontaneous messing-around feel of it was diminished by the fact that they did the same encore at Saturday night's show.

The next show, by the way, cost nearly $100 compared to the Adler's $45-ish after fees. I also think its pretty interesting how the Adler can be beautiful to older generations who remember the art-deco heyday of big movie houses, and also loved by younger generations who dig the retro architecture.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Jeff Speck returns to speak at the Figge

From the city's website:

From pedestrian friendliness to attracting Millennials, New Urbanism expert Jeff Speck to speak on revitalizing downtown Davenport in free presentation at Figge

The public is invited to attend a free presentation, given by New Urbanism expert, Jeff Speck. This presentation will take place at Figge Art Museum auditorium at 225 West 2nd Street on Thursday, August 14, 2008. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. with the talk starting at 6 p.m. The presentation is hosted by Downtown Partnership and the City of Davenport. Mr. Speck is helping launch a new downtown planning process and providing the foundation for an updated Downtown Master Plan.

Last year, Mr. Speck presented in Davenport to an overflow crowd of 150, comprised of interested citizens, business owners and city government. During that talk he covered New Urbanism in general terms. This year's presentation will focus on specific recommendations for continued downtown Davenport revitalization.

Mr. Speck is very familiar with Davenport and visits the area often, as his wife is from the Quad Cities. He is also the co-author of Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream (along with Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk).

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Church Garage Sale Open Thread

I'm way too busy to post much of anything this week, but I did want to at least put up a general discussion thread. I did manage to make it to the fair tonight, and that was good food as always.

This morning I was driving past the old St. Joe's on Marquette, and I saw that there was a garage sale going on inside. I stopped and went inside, and didn't end up buying anything, but it was neat to look around the old church. On our way out, I talked to one of the members for 10 or 15 minutes, and I was quite impressed with what they've been able to accomplish with only about 30 members. New bathrooms have been built, and geothermal climate control was added. This is the church that former Alderman Meyer tried to prevent from removing the pews from, but despite the lack of historic seats, it is still a beautiful building, and using folding chairs instead of permanent pews allows them to hold other events in the church. Its worth stopping down, if not just to see the inside of the church. The sale runs from 8am to noon tomorrow.

Edit: I wrote this just after midnight on Friday night, so my references to "this morning" and "tomorrow" may have been confusing. The garage sale is from 8am-noon on Saturday.