Tuesday night was a training session for people interested in helping with the Hilltop area and its inclusion as an Iowa Main Street Urban Neighborhood District. I figured I'd post some of my thoughts on the meeting, but with the caveat that these are my opinions only, and I don't speak for any groups or other people. The idea is to help the Hilltop area (roughly the area from Ripley to Perry, and 5th to Lombard) succeed by creating a campustown type of feel to connect the Palmer and St. Ambrose campuses. This would be done both by using and enhancing what is already there, and hopefully drawing in new development. This area has many strong institutions, from the 2 colleges to the 3 public schools and several churches. There are also a number of existing businesses, United Neighbors, Cumulus radio stations, and KWQC TV station within this area. While the city's proposal to reconfigure Brady and Harrison streets for better pedestrian access has a role in this Campus Village plan, I wouldn't say they are dependent on each other.
There have been several meetings already, but this was the first one I was able to attend. The meeting was led by Terry Poe Buschkamp, and she ran through a general review of what the Main Street Iowa folks expect from each of the Main Street communities. There will be 4 committees, which are Business Improvement, Design, Organization, and Promotion. At this point the main group, which was around 50 people, split into groups by these 4 interests. While I enjoy design and the physical side of redevelopment, I chose to go with the Promotion group. I've seen over the years that letting people know about things (sports teams, events, amenities, businesses) is just as important as the things themselves.
For whatever reason, the Promotion group was the smallest of the 4, with only half a dozen or so of us in there, including representatives from Palmer, the Harrison Hilltop Theatre, QC First, and St. Paul Lutheran Church. Scott Tunnicliff, the executive director of the Campus Village project and Matt Flynn, who was somewhat representing the City of Davenport also stopped in occasionally. Our little group's training was led by Jim Miller, who is involved in the Main Street Iowa program, and works for Valley Junction's downtown area in West Des Moines. There was a lot of brainstorming and discussing of what the area already has, how its already thought of, what it could be someday, and how best to get it there. One of the main ideas is to have some sort of festival or event in the Hilltop area to get people there to see what it has to offer. There is a feeling that currently Hilltop is somewhere many people drive THROUGH coming to or from downtown, rather than drive TO. There was definitely a lot of enthusiasm from all sides about improving this area, and really it is in all of Davenport's interests to have Hilltop return to a vibrant area. There's certainly room for more people to get involved, and if interested I would suggest contacting Scott Tunnicliff. The whole concept is still in its early stages, so I look forward to being able to talk about further progress as it happens.