Monday, January 26, 2009

Yet another Monday morning assortment

Prairie Heights, shoveling, and a public service announcement

I was interested to see a couple mentions of Prairie Heights in the QCTimes in the last 2 weeks. Last Sunday in the Home section the featured open house of the week was a home in Prairie Heights, and yesterday there was this article featuring the first family to move into the subdivision. I was waiting for the storm of comments relating to the dad's comment about the Promise being part of the reason they chose Davenport, but for some reason there was only 1 comment, and not about that. Since Ruhl is doing a terrible job of promoting the development, at least the Times is hyping it a little. I'd hate to see it fail due to lack of publicity and then for people to point to that and say that new urbanism doesn't work. I wonder if Ruhl is purposely neglecting it because promoting tradition neighborhood design by definition makes suburban style developments (which 95% of new construction is) look worse.

And then there's this one...
Snow removal policies bother many residents -QCTimes
While even I will admit that 10 hours is a short window to get your walks shoveled, the landlord quoted in the story didn't have his shoveled 4 days later! He threatens to leave the city and never have rental property here again. I say don't let the door hit you on the way out. I wonder if he's the same person that posted this rant several times on the Iowa forums. Hopefully what comes out of this complaint is an extension of the time to shovel from 10 up to maybe 18 hours after the snow ends. I mean, people work 12+ hour shifts, and shouldn't be punished for it. On the other hand, if its still not shoveled 4 days after the snow, I wouldn't be opposed to the city charging an extra fine. Its part of the responsibilities of owning a home.

Finally, I wanted to do somewhat of a "Public Service Announcement". I know a lot of people are working their way through the switch to digital television. If you don't know what I'm talking about, and don't have cable or satellite, go to this website. As most of you have surely read, the government is even considering pushing back the final switch to the digital-only format because so many people are still unaware. Also, if you have an HDTV and digital Mediacom cable, you can go out there and trade in your digital box for an HD one that gets 15 or 20 HD channels for free.

However, this isn't my main topic. Many people are buying new HD TVs, both because of the digital switch-over, holiday sales, and the upcoming Super Bowl. If you have certain things like a HD cable box, PS3, or a Blue-Ray player, you'll need to connect them to the TV with an HDMI cable to get the best picture. Here's my point (finally): Do NOT buy one of these cables for more than $20. The brick-and-mortar stores are all banking on people just accepting the idea that these cables should cost $40, $50, even $100. This week Best Buy has an HDMI cable "on sale" for $80. Its ridiculous. Here is a review on, which is a well-respected computer and electronics website, explaining how the $6-10 cables that can be found online are just as good as the $40 cables bought at Best Buy or WalMart. The fact that these stores are essentially price-fixing these cables in order to fleece people makes me want to open an HDMI cable store that sells them all for less than $20. It would work until the big stores realized that their free ride was over and lowered prices to a reasonable level. Here's a link to the cables I use from a reputable seller, which I plan to add to my link bar later. Feel free to donate some of the money I just saved you to the Promise, Riverfront Thumbtack fund, or D1.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Jobs Jobs Jobs

The good news of this week...

Carleton Life Support Systems to add 80 jobs in Davenport -QCTimes

...was pretty much overshadowed by the bad news of the week:

Nichols Aluminum lays off 55 in Davenport -QCTimes

Deere lays off 120 at Davenport plant -QCTimes

...and of course there's the impending Alcoa layoff news, which remain to be seen.

Honestly, the Nichols news doesn't surprise me as much as the Deere news. Nichols, I believe, makes a lot of materials used in home construction, which is down. Deere's Davenport works makes construction equipment. As always, I hate to mention politics, but it appears that there is going to be billions of dollars spent on "infrastructure" which means billions of dollars in construction in the next few years. You'd think some of the folks doing the heavy construction might want a new road grader or two. Hopefully the layoffs are temporary.

I'm curious whether the QC area ended up in the positive or negatives for job creation/loss in 2008. I would guess in the positive, but its hard to say. Deere doesn't advertise when they hire new people, and there have been several smaller businesses open up in Davenport, in addition to the low-paying AT&T and relocated eServ. Here's a list of the top 100 labor markets, by jobs gained and lost from November 2007 to November 2008, as posted by DMRyan over on the AbsoluteDSM forums. It varies from Detroit losing 67,700 jobs all the way up to Houston gaining 42,400 jobs. Since we're not one of the 100 biggest labor markets, we're not on the list. I tried finding my way through the Bureau of Labor Statistics website to get the info, but it makes the City's website look as user friendly as Google in comparison.

I sure hope our city economic development and D1 folks were going after the 1300 IBM jobs that ended up going to a historic building in downtown Dubuque. As much as I love that city, I don't see what they have that we don't, aside from Mike Blouin in their corner. The best museum in Iowa probably wasn't IBM's deciding factor.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday Morning Assortment

My plan to start posting more was derailed by a trip to Arizona. The trip had been planned since early December, but boy did it end up being a good week to be out of the Midwest. I had intended to post a few things while I was gone, but it didn't end up working out.

Every time I visit the Phoenix metro area it reminds me how much I like it here. Sure, being able to walk outside in January in shorts and short sleeves can be nice, but driving anywhere in our metro in 15 or 20 minutes all year is nice too. It was also quite noticeable that I was visiting an area that is very much affected by our current economic crisis. Lots of closed car dealerships, closed stores, and "Foreclosure house auction" signs around. There did seem to be a good amount of development along their light rail route, which just opened, but I can't say for sure its directly tied to the new mass transit option.

Some good news for downtown Davenport
There is now a large construction trailer in the parking lot of the Blackhawk Hotel. Also, if you look at the Scott County Assessor's page for the property it still shows IOC as the deed holder, but if you click on the Auditor/Treasurer Report you can see it listed as "HOTEL BLACKHAWK LLC" with an address in St. Louis in the same building (restored by Restoration St. Louis) where Restoration St. Louis is based. So I think its safe to say that IOC actually followed through on something for once, and transferred the hotel. It will be interesting to see what the sale price is shown as when the Assessor's section updates. I'm very excited about this project. It will be great to get some market-rate apartments in downtown, and great to get the Blackhawk back to its former glory.

What is with people? I was saddened to read the news online about Sunderbruch park being vandalized. I would like to see something done to catch whoever may be doing it. Maybe the VIPs or Guardian Angels can stake out the place come Spring.
In other vandalism news, when I was downtown taking pictures before I left for vacation, I stopped in the Skybridge. The wreath at the North end looks great from the outside. Then I went inside and saw that it looked like the strings on the bottom half were out for some reason. I walked up close to look and saw that the strings were fine, but people had stolen all the bulbs out of everywhere within reach. Nice. I think people caught doing stuff to the Skybridge should be assigned the job of cleaning bird crap off of the observation deck. This is another area where I'd like to see some kind of volunteer effort to really patrol the place frequently. Maybe some coordination between the VIPs, GA's, and maybe some additional volunteers? Maybe even Rhythm City's security, since it is supposedly the "Rhythm City Skybridge." I doubt people would do this stuff if someone else was in there, and I'd be willing to spend an hour or two a week strolling back and forth in the place with my cell phone handy. Its too bad its not always as popular as it was during the floods.

Monday, January 12, 2009

I-74 Bridge at night

I went out last night and got some nighttime images. I plan to post a few over the next week.

Here's the first one, of the I-74 bridge. Its hard to imagine that in 15 or 20 years this may all be gone. I think this picture almost looks better in black and white.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Bald Eagle Days Open Thread

Well, I had hoped for more discussion in the post below, but I'll stick up an open thread anyway. Partly I wanted to remind folks that Bald Eagle Days is going on Saturday and Sunday at the QCCA Expo Center.

In other news, the skatepark lights have been off before 10 the last few nights, so the naysayers prevailed on that one. I wonder what it takes for them to flip them on if we get some freak 50 degree days in January or February. If it doesn't take much to get them back on if folks want to skate or bike some warm evening, then I might not be as against having them off for the 10-below nights.

Speaking of the Eagles, the list of cities that the world's most expensive band is hitting on their tour puts the Quad Cities in pretty good company. Chicago, Orlando, Cleveland, Kansas City.... Cities that have top-level professional sports teams. And Moline. Not too bad. Now we'll see how many people can afford to go.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Walking to school and playing outside

I've been wanting to do a post on this for a few weeks now. I got started thinking about it when I read this article in the paper: Initiative encourages walking to school -QCTimes. The article talks about parents' reluctance to let young children walk to elementary school alone, and some of the negative results of this.

It got me thinking about how much things have apparently changed just in the last 15-20 years since I was a student at Garfield Elementary. I'm not sure what grade I started walking. It was rarely by myself but generally with friends, neighbors, or my younger sister, but I believe it was around 3rd grade or so, or about 8 years old, that I walked to school without an adult. These days if you see an 8-year old walking around by himself, most people wonder where his parents are. One person in the article was quoted as saying that while child predators and amber alerts are highlighted by the media more now, its really no more dangerous to let kids walk to school than it was 20 years ago. That actually seems around right to me. A great suggestion in the article is "walking school buses," where kids are picked up by an adult that walks a bunch of kids to school together. I'd love to think we could return to the days of not worrying about kids walking alone, but the adult escort seems like a good start compared to each parent dropping their kid off from a car.

The other thing that came out of thinking back to walking to school, was the amount of freedom I enjoyed to play outside. My parent-approved territory constantly expanded as I got older. First it was the fenced yard that I regularly escaped from, then our half of the block, then both halves of the block (people with alleys know what I'm talking about), then a couple blocks, then the 9-block area I grew up in that was bordered by busier streets, then essentially freedom to go places (within reason) prior to true freedom, a driver's license. I guess I don't know if this kind of thing still exists anymore, or if parents are constantly in fear of the children being snatched by a psycho. I know I see kids playing outside in the street, so it must not have changed too much from when I was a kid. Maybe I'm getting too nostalgic here, but are kids still allowed to roam their neighborhood for hours at a time without being thought of as unwatched hooligans? I remember that there were kids whose parents didn't really care, whose excessive childhood freedom I was jealous of, and were the types of bad influence kids I'm referring to by "hooligans." I'm also curious how this stuff works out north of Kimberly where going "around the block" could be a squiggly, dead-end filled half mile walk. If you live at say, 40th and Forest Rd, where is there to even walk to?

So I haven't really said a lot here of substance as much as put thoughts and questions out there, but I'm hoping for some good discussion. One of my big reasons for supporting traditional neighborhoods and traditional-style new urban developments is my belief that this idyllic "walk-to-Golick's, bike-to-little-league, play-in-the-alley" childhood was beneficial to me as I grew up. Or maybe I can just blame my parents for not buying me a Nintendo.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Oneida Landing/ Creative Tile building images

I managed to get a couple pictures today of the reconstructed Warren Radio or Creative Tile building at the foot of Oneida Street in Davenport. Here's an old QCTimes article about the renovation, which added 1 and a half stories to the existing building. One thing I don't see in the article is what the building will be called. Hopefully something better than "the former Warren Radio building."
Hopefully they can landscape or otherwise disguise the blank wall of the underground parking level. Aside from that, its a great building for visitors to see when disembarking from the riverboats that dock at Oneida Landing.
Hopefully these sell like hotcakes and demonstrate to the timid local developers that people want to live near the river. Maybe they'll even notice that people want to live downtown.

And yes, I'm trying to post more in 2009.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

QCI's 2008 Wishlist: 1 year later

Here's my top 5 wishes for the Quad Cities from last January's post, "QCI's 2008 Wishlist." I'm reviewing last year's list before I post my 2009 wishlist. I've also written whether or not I think we've achieved these goals.

#1. Illinois comes through for us
This refers to both the QC-Chicago rail connection funding, and the years-overdue WIU-QC campus. They are both no-brainers, but as I've said before, that is about the number of brains that seem to be in Springfield lately. The WIU campus has the land, has Federal grants for improving the area, and already has private businesses lining up to build projects in the area. The Amtrak project looks to be equally logical, at least according to the feasibility study. Illinois, lets get your act together!

FAILED. Instead of Illinois politics being the laughing stock of the Midwest, now they're known worldwide. And we still have no WIU, no Amtrak connection, plus closed parks and historic sites!

#2. Land a large downtown project
Our downtown progress has shifted to smaller projects like the Skatepark, Capitol renovation, and the former tailor shop being renovated on Ripley. We need something big to really send a message about downtown's increasing vibrancy. My top two choices would be a mixed-use building with office, condo, and apartment components, or the Gameworks/InPlay/Dave & Busters idea that I've been hoping for for years now.

Somewhat Failed. The Blackhawk renovation probably qualifies as a really big project for downtown, but it hasn't really gotten started yet. Instead there have been several medium-sized projects this year, such as the Salvation Army building's transformation, the Freight House, etc.

#3 Figure out the Casino
Speaking of large downtown projects, it would be nice to get the amazing Blackhawk renovation plans in motion. It would also be nice to put the LeClaire Park revitalization into action. What are these waiting on? Of course, they're waiting for IOC to stop screwing Davenport for a few minutes and allow some progress. At this point I've given up on them actually doing a useful project of their own, but it'd sure be nice if they'd at least get our of our way.

FAILED. We still have no public announced plans, and the economy isn't making any large investment in a casino likely. The riverfront is still marred by the parking lots and ugly, "local-oriented" casino. IOC needs to go, but I haven't heard anything from the council about it lately.

#4. Redevelop the former hotel and cinema sites on North Brady
I'm glad the new Davenport welcome sign wasn't put farther north, because at least this way we can pretend these eyesores aren't actually part of our city.

Succeeded! The hotel is torn down, the former movie theater is slated to become a religious center, and Tri-City and other contractors are going to be building new offices out there. Finally. When 65th/67th Street is connected and Menards gets around to building their new location, this will be a completely new intersection and a better entrance to Davenport.

#5. Learn to market the Quad Cities better
I believe we have a great community here, and a lot of people feel the same way. The question is why we sometimes seem to be aiming for the "best kept secret in the Midwest" title. We should be advertising in Des Moines, Peoria, Chicago, etc. Show off our low cost of living, many recreational opportunities, history, culture, and multiple downtowns all making progress. Show people that we're not the Quad Cities of the 1980's anymore.

Unknown? I'm not sure how many opinions about Davenport have been changed this year. We need a CNN special on how we weathered the floods and are completely back to normal.

1 out of 5? I hope we do better on my 2009 list...