GUEST POST: Filling in an empty quarter; a response to the MedQuarter Plan

This is a guest post by Bruce Nesmith, Joan and Abbott Lipsky Professor of Political Science at Coe College. Nesmith runs the blog Holy Mountain: A Blog About Our Common Life, where this post is also running. He has been covering the development of the MedQuarter plan on his blog since the first public meeting about the MedQuarter district.  There’s a story making the rounds this week about an apartment complex in New York City that has separate entrances for poor and non-poor residences. I don’t know if it’s true or not, and don’t much care. It’s such a perfect metaphor for America’s struggles with difference and inequality. (For the record, research on mixed-income housing developments in Chicago by Robert J. Chaskin of the University of Chicago, published in the May 2013 special issue of the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, documents strong re-segregating tendencies, though maybe not at the door level.) These struggles color my reading of the Cedar Rapids MedQuarter Master Development Plan, rolled out this week after much planning and consultation. The plan contains a lot of good ideas and hits a lot of the right notes. After all that, I’m not sure to what extent the group is making a priority to integrate with their surroundings, or even is concerned whether or not they contribute to development of the city. The background: As downtown Cedar Rapids has developed since the 2008 flood, it has become increasingly apparent that a huge area immediately surrounding it is “empty”: mostly devoid of interesting places, or even uninteresting places, mainly featuring several medical complexes and a…
An Ongoing Conversation About New Urbanism With Bruce Nesmith: Part One

An Ongoing Conversation About New Urbanism With Bruce Nesmith: Part One

Bruce Nesmith is a Political Science Professor at Coe College, where he teaches American Politics. He’s also a frequent guest on Iowa Public Radio and a common source for KCRG. He runs a blog, Holy Mountain, where he often discusses  issues related to new New Urbanism and urban planning. I originally emailed Bruce to get his reaction to Gravity can matter for growth on the periphery, by Rick Smith. A lot of the thoughts I sent ended up in my response to the article Sprawl Is Not A Synonym For Growth. I also wanted to start a discussion with a man spends a lot of time thinking about the same issues I do but has a better grasp of public policy. Bruce Nesmith: I’m not surprised about Dusek’s and Rusk’s comments. They are, after all, in the business of building large-lot subdivisions, and I imagine that’s where the money is. An attack on sprawl is an attack on, not only their livelihood but their very vocation. (It’s been interesting, in these bumpy economic times, to read the ads in the NY Times. If only the well-off have money then people market luxury goods.) There’s an article in today’s Times I haven’t read yet about rising urban rents due to short supply, but I bet there’s little money in apartment buildings compared to large-lot subdivisions.  So, what shall we talk about? Much of American politics today, and probably PR and marketing and other areas too, is trying to recapture the 1950s, or maybe 1950s plus (electronic technology, civil rights, etc.). For almost 30 years after WW2, the American economy boomed, and benefits...

Big Attendence and Requests for Big Ideas at the EnvisionCR Kickoff - UPDATED

People really want a skate park. And a dog park on the west side. And a botanical garden that’s kid friendly. Those were the issues that appeared over and over again on a long, brown piece of paper the city had set up in the center of the National Czech and Slovak Museum’s main hall. The kickoff was an opportunity for residents to share their ideas about what should be included in the city’s next comprehensive plan - the ways the city should try to develop over the next 10 to 15 years. Two companies are involved; RDG is working on the city, and Confluence on the greenways that are going up on the west side of the Cedar River. For a good overview check out Dave Franzman’s story for KCRG. Residents were able to take their ideas directly to city and RDG employees, who were stationed throughout with displays explaining different parts of the planning process. Confluence and the Parks and Rec department held a breakout session in the museum’s heritage hall focusing on the 110 acres of new greenways. Confluence did a river greenway in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, another flood prone city. You should check it out. It includes a pedestrian bridge, one of the things mention in our google hangout Monday. The greenways - and how they should be used - dominated the discussion at the kickoff event. On April 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th there will be more community meetings for EnvisionCR at CSPS, from 4-6pm. These meetings will focus on stuff besides the greenways. Stuff like, where should the city put in bike paths and lanes, or...