Showing posts from June, 2014

Is 3rd Avenue a barrier to Redmond Park?

One thing I wonder about the proposed Cedar Rapids Greenway is how well the new parks will connect with the neighborhoods they border. The Time-Check portion will extend to Ellis Boulevard NE, the Czech Village portion to C Street SW. Both Ellis Boulevard and C Street are important trafficways, and could be theoretical or at least psychological barriers to those living on the other side. Of course, anyone from anywhere can drive to the park, but I think based on my reading of Jane Jacobs that the neighborhood would be a vital contributor to the life of the park.

There are existing opportunities in Cedar Rapids to investigate the impact of border streets on park use. Near my house, Redmond Park borders 3rd Avenue SE, which is a three-lane, one-way street slicing through the Wellington Heights neighborhood. There are no traffic signals between 10th and 19th Streets. The posted speed limit on 3rd is 30 mph, which I'd estimate nearly all vehicles were exceeding. The park itself is sm…

Issues of privilege in walkable cities

A couple reports out this week share a theme of how and to whom the benefits of urbanism are flowing. Smart Growth America's study of America's largest metropolitan areas describes how some are moving faster than others in providing walkable downtown areas, but also notes that housing and office rental prices have increased there and may be pricing some people out. FiveThirtyEight cites data, particularly from a new study on BuzzFeed, that bicycle use varies widely by sex and class, with men and middle class people biking far more often.

Smart Growth America puts six cities at the top of the walkable urbanism charts: Washington, New York, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago and Seattle. Together these six cities account for 48 percent of the walkable urban places in the 30 metro areas studied (pp. 11-13). They predict, however, based on a number of factors, that Miami, Atlanta, Detroit and Denver have the potential of reaching the top, with Chicago in particular likely to drop in t…

Theater review: "Respect"

Cedar Rapids's marvelous arts venue, CSPS, hosted the premiere Saturday night of the University of Iowa's Summer Rep production of "Respect: A Musical Journey of Women". It was written by Dorothy Marcic of Vanderbilt University, based on her book Respect: Women and Popular Music (Texere, 2002). It contains 63 songs, nearly all of which were 20th century top 40 hits by female artists. A tour is planned, with other ensembles performing around the country, and I heartily encourage anyone within range to see it.

The cast is four female characters, one of whom plays the author and provides commentary and narration. (At first I thought she was the author, then realized there was no way she was old enough to have attended high school in the 1960s.) The other three sing and dance throughout the roughly 100-minute show. Some songs are sung on their own, some in simple medleys, and some in medleys that weave back and forth between the different songs. The harmonies and choreo…

Proposed Cedar Rapids Greenway

The Cedar Rapids Department of Parks and Recreation, along with consultants from the Iowa City design firm Confluence, met with members of the public last night to roll out the almost-final draft of plans for park development along the west side of the Cedar River known collectively as the Greenway. The ideas are elaborate and ambitious, and would take about 10-15 years to come to fruition. Any implementation will need to take into account developing plans for flood protection, which are happening along a parallel track.

The Greenway consists of three chunks, including two large swaths of residential neighborhoods (Time-Check and Czech Village) that were heavily damaged in the 2008 flood. These two portions are connected by a narrow stretch of riverfront across from downtown that already houses the McGrath Amphitheatre.

The meeting was held at the Flamingo Events Center, which has evolved from a long-established restaurant on Ellis Boulevard, and which itself was hard-hit by that f…

Cities and economic opportunity

Last month Meeting of the Minds and Living Cities organized a one-day blogfest on the question "How Could Cities Better Connect All Their Residents to Economic Opportunity?" They drew a lot of responses, featuring a variety of ways of thinking about the issue.

I've come to think of economic opportunity as the corest of core issues related to how all of us are going to live together in the 21st century. If we are going to live sustainably, instead of poisoning the water and destroying the climate, we have to have confidence that we can constrain our behavior without suffering. If we are going to accommodate diversity in all its wondrous dimensions, we need to see other people as part of a supportive community instead of threats to our well-being and/or safety.

So, economic opportunity, rah. But easier stated than achieved: our global economy seems to need fewer workers, new jobs either require skills a lot of people don't have or pay badly, many poor people are physic…