Thursday, April 30, 2009

QCI's 471-Word Sugar Review

I made it out to Showcase Cinemas 53 last night to see Sugar. As most of you know, it was partially filmed in the QC area a couple years ago. Here's my quick (and spoiler-free) review:

As all the other reviews say, its not a stereotypical cliched baseball movie. One of the people who I saw it with pointed out something he expected to happen with the last shot, that absolutely would have in a Disney-esque sports movie, but didn't in Sugar. I also agree with the folks who have said this is a baseball movie made by people who know baseball. The main character, Sugar, is a pitcher, and in several scenes he runs off the round after a batter hits the ball to back up either first or home plate. You don't see that kind of accuracy in "Rookie of the Year." Most reviews seem to refer to it as a good movie even for folks who don't care for the sport. There's much more to the film than baseball, but I couldn't give a review of the movie from the perspective of a non-baseball person. I'm sure there are some out there somewhere. So for a baseball fan, this is a great movie.

As an Iowa fan... not so much. There's no particular bad guy in this movie, although there are a few isolated jerks. So it doesn't make Iowans out to be bad folks, but it does reinforce a lot of Midwestern stereotypes. Some of these, like everyone being nice, don't hurt us any. Others, like that most of us live on farms and don't speak any languages other than English, are less flattering, and less accurate. At one point Sugar needs to catch a Greyhound bus, and instead of going to the Ground Transportation Center 2 blocks from the stadium, they of course show him being dropped off by a taxi at a bar/convenience store at the intersection of 2 farm-lined country roads. Because that's where we catch the bus in Iowa... You definitely get the feeling that this is a movie set in Iowa made by New Yorkers.

Overall though, its a great movie. Around 99% of America doesn't live in Iowa, and a good portion of those who do may not care about reinforcing stereotypes, so my complaints on that aspect are inconsequential to the big picture. Also, from interviews it seems like the filmmakers understand that there's more to Iowa than cities like Burlington, even if they didn't really show it. The music is prominently featured in the movie, and its good stuff. While I am biased, the scenery is beautiful. They used a mixture of downtown Davenport and downtown Burlington overview shots to portray downtown "Bridgetown, IA." Even the farms and countryside look great. I'm not sure how much longer it will be playing at 53, ( shows at least through May 6th) but I'd recommend seeing it soon if you don't want to wait for the DVD. Its also pretty cool to see Davenport in a non-Italian movie.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Weekend Open Thread

I've been taking advantage of these beautiful days to do stuff outside, and I'll probably be pretty busy this weekend as well. Regulars know what that means... an Open Thread. Talk about whatever you want.

Also, here's an image of the progress on the new halfway house/Department of Corrections building replacing 605 Main Street. Its going up fast.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Iowa’s Front Porch Parkway – Public Open House

How about River Boulevard? -QCTimes

Here's a press release from the city about Thursday night's open house:

Iowa’s Front Porch Parkway – Public Open House
Thursday, April 23rd 2009
4-6:00 p.m.
Design Center
102 E 2nd Street (parking in ramp above)

The City of Davenport will be showcasing preliminary design concepts—and seeking public input—on the latest installment of RiverVision. River Drive downtown—Iowa’s Front Porch Parkway—has great potential to create a strong link between the downtown and our vibrant riverfront, and has been identified in RiverVision as a key component of our downtown waterfront revitalization. Landscape enhancements are being considered to enrich the visitor experience, create safer pedestrian crossings, and provide an opportunity for public art, strengthening the identity of our river front and downtown as the cultural nexus of the Quad Cities.

The public is invited to view the preliminary concept plans for greening River Drive, and is encouraged to provide feedback. The input received at this exhibition will be valuable in helping to determine the final design for downtown River Drive.

The exhibition is informal. As such, there will not be a formal presentation or start time. The public is invited to peruse the concepts anytime between 4-6 p.m., to ask questions of City Staff, and to provide much desired input. Come when you can, and stay as long as you want.

For more information, contact Darrin Nordahl, City Designer
And here are some maps and artists concepts of what this could look like.
(As always, click on any image to see a larger version)

A detailed look at a possible planter design.

This is the impressive pair of images. What River Drive looks like now, above, and what it could look like, in the lower image.

The overall project area.

A possible design for one block's median.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Q-C Watchblog

As I'm sure many of you have noticed, the QCTimes has started a new blog run by the various municipal beat reporters, called Q-C Watchblog. It will probably be covering some stuff that those of us who follow city politics and development will find interesting, but wouldn't be newsworthy enough to make it into the paper.

From their description:
"The Quad-City Times reporters who cover Bettendorf, Davenport, Scott County and the Illinois Quad-Cities are watching for news, notes and anecdotes that happen beyond meetings and without press releases. Look for links to articles about events or issues that could affect the Quad-Cities, or contact the Watchbloggers with a newstip. It is all happening here."
I've added a link to Q-C Watchblog over on the right with the rest of the blogs.

Week in Review: The good and the bad

I've been busy this last week, and didn't get much time to post. Here are a few of the high and low points of the week for me in QC news.

The Good

Blackhawk Hotel restoration begins!
Forrest Block building ready to go!
Naysayers abound! But who cares, as in less than 2 years there will be dozens of new market-rate apartments downtown. They'll fill up fast, and hopefully some of our timid developers around here will take note that downtown is different than it was 20 years ago. Or even 6 years ago. Local developers or not, I hope Restoration St. Louis picks another building to bring back to life next.

Centennial Park Active Recreation Corridor finished!
See the previous post for pictures. The park was jammed Saturday, and the great thing is, it would have been jammed with or without the ribbon cutting ceremony. Every time I drive past the skatepark, day or night, if its over 40 degrees or so there are people there skating and biking. I bet its the most populated park per square foot in town.

Police pursuits
No, its not a good thing that we have people who run from the police. However, at least twice last week when they took off the police actually followed! This is how to fight crime. Chase them when they run, tow their cars when they bail out, catch the passengers they left in the back seat, make criminals' lives difficult. These things were happening last week, and its progress.

Improvements at Modern Woodmen Park
These owners are actually making improvements to the stadium, rather than sending people in money costumes to pay their bills late. What a difference. Check out the new ribbon board in right field. I don't think too many single-A minor league teams have one of these.

The Bad

"Friends" of Credit Island?
Its amazing to me that people can justify opposing something on the basis that it might get vandalized. Lets just not building anything, in that case! We can all hide in our basements and hope we don't get vandalized. Its a good thing that there are people with the vision to accomplish things in this world, rather than people who just fear any unknown possibilities. This bridge, which is already budgeted and ready to go, is part of linking the riverfront trail to the Duck Creek trail to make a huge recreational loop. While a few naysayers calling themselves friends of Credit Island may not think its a good idea, I can find a lot of people who think its a great idea. Bikes on credit island not a good idea? Maybe some of these "friends" should have noticed that there's been a bike lane going onto the island for years.

Handicapped Fees
Credit this one to Professor Lynn. He's against people paying a fee for using the storm sewer system, but he's ok with charging one for being handicapped and getting a parking space? If people are taking advantage of the system, check into it. According to the article there are 900 of these residential street handicapped spots in the city. One of the worries is that people have moved away but their spots remain. Solution: Have an intern or volunteer go through and check the Scott County property records once a year to see if people have moved. At a minute each, that would take one person less than 2 workdays. Or keep the idea of having people renew their spot every year, but drop the $40 installation fee. If 10% of the spots turn over per year, you're looking at a big $3600 income per year for "new sign fees." It would probably cost that much just to come up with a new billing form to do it. Don't say I never saw a tax or fee I didn't like.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Centennial Park Images

Yesterday was the grand opening of the active recreation section of Centennial Park. I was able to make it down for the speeches and ribbon cutting, and got a few pictures.
Here is the snack bar, bathroom, and utility room pavilion, with picnic tables and the kiddie basketball court in the foreground.

Here we have Governor Culver speaking, and then being presented with a rocking chair inscribed with "Davenport: Iowa's Front Porch." He said he'd put it on the porch at Terrace Hill, but then he left it behind. I suppose he didn't bring the Gubernatorial pickup truck. I'm sure someone will manage to get it to Des Moines.

The actual event, with the usual folks and the usual scissors. It rained on and off during the speeches, but people didn't mind. Even with the sprinkles it was a very nice day to be outside.

However, after the speeches were over, the sun came out and a perfect rainbow formed, centered right over downtown and Centennial Park. Seems like a good omen if there ever was one.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

1st Phase of Centennial Park Grand Opening

Saturday's the big day for the "Active Recreation Corridor" part of Centennial Park. The Governor will be taking part in a ribbon cutting ceremony at 5pm Saturday. Also, check out the video on the link below for some aerial views of the park under construction.

From the city website:

Please make plans to "cut-the-ribbon" with us for the opening of the recently completed Centennial Park Active Recreation Corridor on Saturday, April 18th. The Grand Opening Celebration begins at 10:00 a.m. and will offer live music, basketball clinics, demonstrations at the Skate Park, family-friendly games and activities, giveaways and much more. The Active Recreation Corridor has much to offer families, including a complex of two full, tournament quality basketball courts, a youth half-court, a concession/restroom pavilion, a stage, as well as picnic and informal play areas west of the new Skate Park. Surrounding the active recreation elements along River Drive are streetscape and landscape borders designed to support multiple uses including spectator viewing, active recreation participant rest area, family play, and picnicking. The project received a $286,000 Iowa Great Places grant.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Brick Streets

Moline expected to choose more expensive brick street repair option -QCOnline

This is somewhat related to Dave Barrett's blog post of a couple weeks ago about a street near his home in Moline. The city of Moline is going to repair a brick street using bricks, rather than just take the easy way out and slap some concrete or asphalt down instead. I knew that Davenport also mandates that certain streets are left as brick, but I was curious as to the cost over time. It seems like brick streets last forever compared to blacktop or cement. I did some Google searching, and found this page on with a USA Today article from 2003. As I read it, I was surprised to see these excerpts:

Winter Park's brick restoration program is one of the most extensive in the country, but the city is not alone in its effort to preserve or bring back a method of paving that had all but disappeared during the last half century. Exactly how many towns and cities are returning to brick streets isn't known. But the trend seems to be going on in all parts of the country:

* Champaign, Ill., and Davenport, Iowa, are among dozens of cities that ban paving over brick streets with other materials. Both cities spend nearly $100,000 a year to maintain brick streets.


But some cities say the cost is worth it.

"They last. With a little repair they'll go another 100 years," says Eric Schallert, senior engineer in the Davenport, Iowa, Public Works department.

So apparently our brick street program isn't as common as I would have assumed, or at least it wasn't in 2003. The article seems to have differing opinions on whether brick is cheaper or more expensive in the long run. Below is a picture taken back in 2006 of High Street in Davenport near Genesis East and Golick's.
While Davenport's brick streets may not be the quietest, smoothest, or flattest, they definitely have character. I'd be curious to see the cost/benefit of cement vs asphalt vs brick over a 100 year period. I'd think that if Davenport's brick streets could still be around as old as they are, that with modern roadbed technology a "new" brick street could last even longer. On the other hand "new" sidewalks don't seem to last nearly as long as old ones. Something to think about.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

2 Nights in a row at the iWC

I was able to see most of the Beach Boys concert on Thursday night, and then Friday night I went to what might have been the last QC Flames game at the iWireless Center. I'm pretty sure its the first time I've been to the arena two nights in a row.Mike Love and Bruce Johnston, the only 2 original members in this version of the Beach Boys. They made a few jokes about their age, but their voices haven't changed that much. Read the QCTimes review of the concert here. I wouldn't call the Beach Boys one of my all time favorite bands, although I really like Sloop John B, but I sure did know basically every song they played. I guess I never stopped to think about how many dozens of hit songs they had over the years.

It was a heck of a hockey game at the iWireless Center, but unfortunately it may be the last one there for a while. We'll find out over the off-season. One key thing to watch is what the AHL board decides regarding the Calgary Flames moving their farm team to Abbotsford. One thing's for sure, and that's that this season is over. Despite winning a great game in a shootout, the 2 other teams that needed to lose the rest of their games, Houston and Rockford, both failed their end of the QC Flames playoff plan.

During one of the breaks, during a rigged game of Deal or No Deal there was even a marriage proposal. She said it was a deal, and thus avoided making her boyfriend famous on YouTube. After the game, as seen above, the players gave away all the leftover freebies to the crowd. They also stood on the ice and watched a 2 minute farewell video on the big screen. It can be found on YouTube here. I really enjoyed becoming a fan of both the QC and Calgary Flames, and I'm sorry things didn't work out. Hopefully we can get a different AHL team, but I'm not hopeful on that.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Illinois Election Day Open Thread

While I rarely get into the Illinois-side politics, I figured I stick up a discussion thread.

The only race I've followed at all is the one for Rock Island Mayor. Fortunately, the 2 candidates who are still actively running are the better 2 of the 3 who started out. David Kimbell, who dropped out after the deadline for having his name taken off the ballot, has some odd opinions about the riverfront. Here's what he had to say in this QCTimes article:

Kimbell said he is also opposed to the park plan and would like to see a development that will bring in jobs.

“I would rather see the city try to bring is some kind of manufacturing,” he said. “It would be a good place for it because the (Casino Rock Island) riverboat will be moved and we need something to replace it.”

Yikes. Replace Casino Rock Island with manufacturing? I can think of a few better uses for what is basically Rock Island's "front yard." Such as... Armory Park! Obviously I shouldn't judge a candidate on one view, but this comment sure seems nutty. David Levin thinks RI should slow down development on Armory Park, which I also disagree with, but at least that's a position with some logical arguments behind it. So I guess consider this my un-endorsement of the candidate who's already dropped out.

Update Wednesday morning: Its a tie! Or at least close to one. We'll see if this race goes on as long as Minnesota's senate contest.

Friday, April 03, 2009

"Sugar" Opens Today (in NYC and LA...)

As someone commented over on Cruiser's blog, the film "Sugar," which was filmed partially in the Quad Cities, opens today in New York and Los Angeles. I've posted the trailer before, but just to be thorough, it can be found here. It makes the movie look pretty good.

I read a bunch of reviews yesterday, and literally all of them were positive about the movie. You can find 20+ of them using this Google News search for "Sugar."

One of the better quotes I ran across somewhat reassures me that Davenport won't be presented as a hick town, but Burlington, and possibly the entire state might be in danger of being smeared with that brush.

From this review at Hollywood and Fine:
But the film also deals with the larger issues of being dropped in the middle of nowhere – in this case, Davenport, Iowa, which was renamed Bridgetown for the film – with no support system and little maturity to cope with loneliness and insecurity. Where better to make that notion cinematic than to plunk Dominican ballplayers into the relatively undiverse rural American midwest?

“When we were choosing a place, we wanted a contrast as big as possible, one that isolated them as much as possible,” Boden says.

Not that Davenport itself was the perfect fit: “Davenport is actually a more diverse place,” Fleck says. “We wanted Miguel to be isolated, so we modeled the town on Burlington, Iowa. It’s just that all the resources we needed were in Davenport. So we shot there and made up a town name.”
So Davenport isn't the way they're making Bridgetown look, but Bridgetown physically looks a heck of a lot like Davenport. Its ironic that Modern Woodmen Park sits in a political precinct that went for Obama over McCain 80%-20%, but may end up looking in the film like its in a more prejudiced small town.

Oh well, hopefully people will be so blown away by the beautiful scenery and the friendly (if outdated) people shown in the movie that they'll come here and see the real Iowa. Just ask Dyersville what a good baseball movie can do for tourism.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Quad Cities Waterfront Convention Center: Part 2

Here are a couple of interior pictures that I took at the new Quad Cities Waterfront Convention Center in Bettendorf this past Monday night. The place is nice, but really no different than what the River Center would look like if it were built today.

I didn't have time to explore, but I believe the stairs at the end of the 2nd image lead to the casino and hotels via the skywalk across the railroad tracks.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

A few rumors

Just thought I'd post a few tidbits that I've been hearing lately.

In response to criticism about tearing down entire neighborhoods for parking, St. Ambrose has said that it will stop tearing down surrounding blocks for surface parking. Their new plan is to tear down dorms and classrooms, and then replace them with parking lots.

Niky Bowles has been working on her next housing project. While her previous project, Villa D'Este, was lauded by some as "the best project every built in Davenport," it has been somewhat less successful than imagined. She believes that the entrance was not ornate enough to attract residents, and plans for her next condo development's gateway to include real mermaids.

Mark Nelson has decided to retire as a real estate appraiser, and instead open a store selling buggy whips, phone book holders, roller skate keys, GM stock, and 8-track tapes. He believes that he has a good feel for what is up-and-coming and popular in the modern world. It was this knowledge that allowed him to make such an accurate portrayal of the health of downtown Davenport.

St. Paul Lutheran Church in Davenport is considering adding a cover charge for attending service. The revenue from this would be used to both tear down additional historic buildings, and also to gold-plate their existing church building. During their biblical research they've discovered that Jesus actually prefered hanging out with rich people after all.

The River Cities' Reader will be issuing a special "All Conspiracy Issue" finally tying up the loose ends of how the City of Davenport uses giant thumbtacks, LED lights, and federal stimulus money to secretly take control of a certain local daily newspaper's employees' minds. In an industry first, the issue will be printed entirely on tin foil.

*As previously stated, these are just rumors and I cannot vouch for them. The fact that I heard them last month from a rather short gentleman wearing a green hat, and the fact that today is April 1st, may or may not affect the accuracy of these rumors.