The state of core housing

The state of core housing

At least 29 projects, with a total of 783 new residential units, have been built, proposed, or are under construction in the core of Cedar Rapids. These projects range in size from rehabbed historic homes converted to mixed-use to 96 unit apartment buildings in redeveloped historic buildings. There hasn’t been this level of investment and energy geared towards building residential in these neighborhoods for nearly half a century. The city has used the 2008 flood as a catalyst for investment in downtown, Kingston, and New Bohemia. The McGrath Amphitheatre, Downtown Library, and NewBo Market have reinvigorated downtown and surrounding neighborhoods along the river (with the notable exclusion of the Northwest). Seven years after the flood these public projects have brought the heart of civic life into downtown. Uptown Friday Nights, Meet me at the Market and the Downtown Farmers Market are profoundly successful public events. Two new towers are being built in the heart of downtown, and companies large and small have moved into office space into these neighborhoods. Cedar Rapids is hardly alone in the return of civic, residential and economic life to it’s historic core. The return to the city is one of the defining aspects of this era of American history. While much of the focus is on America’s largest cities, or cities that loom large in the American imagination like Portland and Pittsburgh, the rebirth of urbanism is a comprehensive national trend. What does this mean for Cedar Rapids? The return of housing, specifically multifamily housing, into the core is the vital component that will allow the continued and prolonged revitalization of these core neighborhoods….
Developer Steve Emerson’s plans for downtown

Developer Steve Emerson’s plans for downtown

Steve Emerson, President of Aspect architecture:design wants Cedar Rapids to have a bustling downtown. So he’s building it. Since the flood over 650 new or rehabbed residential units are either planned, under construction or completed in downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. Aspect’s share of that total is substantial. The company has plans for 114 to 130 new residential units across four projects. Each project is a conversion of an existing historic commercial structure into housing. “The core needs that housing component to succeed,” said Emerson. More people living downtown will make downtown safer and encourage retail to move in, said Emerson. He used Des Moines, which has seen its downtown come back to life, as an example. “Des Moines has 10,000 units downtown,” said Emerson, “Cedar Rapids has 1,000.” Two of Aspect’s projects are in the heart of downtown: The former Illinois Gas and Electric Company building at 323 3rd Street SE and Smulekoff’s building at 97 3rd Ave SW. Aspect is waiting to take ownership of the Smulekoff’s building while the city figures out what’s necessary for flood protection. The need for flood protection meant the historic building probably couldn’t remain a retail space, Emerson said. “We’ll likely have to lose the loading dock in the back,” he said. The flood wall and pumping stations will make the already narrow space between the back of the building and the river even narrower. Aspect’s plan for the Smulekoff’s building feature a ground floor event center, either one or two stories of office space and two or three stories of “micro-unit” apartments, with 16 apartments per floor. The final use of the third floor hasn’t been...
What drives neighborhood stigma?

What drives neighborhood stigma?

A while back I wrote that the negative reputation of the Wellington Heights neighborhood boiled down to simple racism. That’s a hefty statement. That’s why I wanted to draw attention to a summary of two recent studies that dive into what drives neighborhood stigma and what the consequences are for a stigmatized neighborhood. Daniel Hertz, writing at City Observatory, goes over studies from Harvard and NYU that deal with neighborhood stigma. The results? Neighborhood stigma is influenced more by the race or immigrant status of residents than by poverty, crime or the amount of drugs. That’s worth repeating: race is a bigger driver of neighborhood stigma than poverty, crime or drug use. “Communities acquire a reputation for being ‘sketchy’ to some extent independently of whether or not that ‘sketchiness’ is real—and in a way that’s heavily influenced by racism.” Hertz wrote.  “Once they have a bad reputation, however, the stigma helps create the very problems it warns others away from—in part by causing people to avoid the neighborhood.” Not only is stigma more closely tied to race than actual bad stuff, stigma results in the creation of actual bad stuff! Neighborhood stigma is a driver for increasing poverty, increasing crime and increasing drug abuse. Stigma creates an incentive for disinvestment that can be a sinkhole for a neighborhood. Check out the the whole article on City Observatory....
A sneak peek of NewBo West

A sneak peek of NewBo West

NewBo West, conveniently located in Czech Village, is a (sort-of) new mixed-use building at 1612 C Street SW. I say sort of new because the “mixed” part of the mixed-use is a two story addition of 10 apartments onto a retail building built in 1951. There’s roughly 3000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor (right now it’s split into two spaces), five two bedroom apartments and five one bedroom apartments. They should be move in ready by September of 2015.* The space for the apartments utilizes an unconventional floor plan. Nine of the apartments are entered through the second floor hallway. One unit is entered from the rear of the building and is handicap accessible (the building does not have an elevator). Of the nine upstairs units, eight have two stories. All of the two-bedroom units second story run the entire length of the building east to west. All of the two story apartments also have balconies off of the living room. Every unit will have an in-unit washer and dryer. Four of the ten units are income-restricted to households making 80% of median income or less. This is the same income restriction level as the 10th Street Brickstones. Here’s the income breakdown: One person can make up to $43,750. Two People can make a combined amount up to $50,000 Three people can make a combined amount up to $56,250 Rents aren’t final yet, but should be close to comparable apartments in the area. Expect a few hundred dollar premium if you don’t qualify for the income restrictions. The commercial space is projected to rent at $14 per square foot plus...
From now on this neighborhood shall be called Hayes Park

From now on this neighborhood shall be called Hayes Park

Just south of Czech Village there’s a neighborhood that deserves a spotlight. It doesn’t have a name, so I’m naming it. From henceforth the area of the southwest side of town bordered by Wilson Avenue to the south, J Street to the Wast, Bowling Street to the East* and the C Street to the North shall be known as Hayes Park. What’s so great about Hayes Park? First off, since this blog is about urbanism, we need to mention it’s walkability. It’s right next to Czech Village, which is right next to New Bohemia, which is right next to downtown. It has two groceries stores, Hy-Vee and Save-a-Lot. There’s a park, Hayes Park to be specific (that’s where I got the name because I’m very creative). So you can walk to get errands done, and also walk to the cultural opportunities in Czech Village and New Bohemia. It’s also right next to the epically long Cedar River Trail, so there’s easy access to quality biking. It’s not perfect for walkability. Some streets don’t have sidewalks, but they don’t have any traffic either, and you’re really only a few hundred feet away from being able to hop onto a sidewalk. It’s on a hill, you’ll walk or bike downhill to get to Czech Village and the Cedar trail, making the hardest part of your journey the last few blocks getting home. Some of the sidewalks need repair (it is hardly alone in this). What about housing? For renters the main benefit of this neighborhood compared to living in Czech Village or New Bohemia proper is cost savings. You can rent...
Goodnight Earth

Goodnight Earth

Welcome to this weeks urbanist goodreads. I took the name out of the headline because, whatever. I felt like it. Also, I formatted this one differently, more essayish, more quotations. Anyway, here’s your listicle: There’s really no decent argument that climate change isn’t both real and already happening. Recently, however, something remarkable has started to happen. The alarm bells have moved from the fringes, or, say, every single serious scientific journal, into mainstream publications. I should clarify what I mean by alarm bells. For decades scientists have been warning us that we need to cut carbon emissions in order to arrest the damage we’ve done to the planet. That’s out the window. We will not be able to stop the damage we’ve done. Mass extinctions, hundreds of millions, maybe billions, displaced by rising oceans, freak weather events, crop failures, droughts, the political instability that is created by crop failures and droughts, all of this is inevitable. The alarm bells have metastasized from a persistent morning alarm clock, chiding us to wake up, to tornado sirens screaming at us to take shelter now or suffer dire consequences. We thought we had more time. The climate is changing at the pace of the most aggressive predictions, not the least. What are we on track for? John H. Richardson, writing in Esquire, spells it out; “In the blunt words of the 2014 National Climate Assessment, conducted by three hundred of America’s most distinguished experts at the request of the U. S. government, human-induced climate change is real—U. S. temperatures have gone up between 1.3 and 1.9 degrees, mostly since 1970—and the change is...