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Showing posts from September, 2014

Life lessons from the Skywalk

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I've gone on previously about my love for Cedar Rapids Downtown Skywalk System, in spite of its lack of urbanism bona fides. When the section connecting the Doubletree Hotel across 1st Avenue to its parking garage was completed and opened to the public last year, it looked like restoration was complete... except that there was no connection from the garage to the U.S. Bank building mere feet away. So you cannot walk all the way across downtown through the skywalks, as you could have done for years before the 2008 flood.

Efforts to remedy this oversight hit a snag last week. The City of Cedar Rapids thought it had secured money for the patch through a federal transportation grant, but federal and state officials have ruled (after a complaint from Marion and Hiawatha officials) that the Skywalk is not really transportation. They are correct, I'm afraid.

The complexity of this ongoing dispute has revealed a number of problems with the way our governments make planning and design…

Downtown construction continues

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CRST is constructing a new corporate headquarters on 1st St SE, in the 200 block, across from the Alliant Energy building (the former site of the 1st Street Parkade). Construction began last week:


Buildings on 3rd Avenue are, on the left, the Smulekoff's Furniture Store, currently holding a going-out-of-business sale after 125 years downtown; and, on the right, the Linn County Courthouse and jail on Mays' Island.

Homes, church homes, and hometowns

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I learned about After Hours Denver from the Rev. Jill Sanders, who mentioned their distinctive bar ministry in a sermon one week. They are a United Methodist ministry that meets in a different city bar each week. While they are involved in a variety of social outreach, the most immediately striking first impression for a lot of people is, "Hey, this church meets in a bar!"

For lifelong churchgoers, there is a preconception of what church looks like. James F. White (citations below) wrote 50 years ago that most people attending church seek an emotional experience there. Their experience may be affected by spectacular design...
...but most people respond to something that resonates with past associations. I can relate... When I visited my sister's church, First Presbyterian of La Grange, Illinois....
...I immediately felt at home, not only because of the familiar form of worship, but because the architecture was similar to the church in which I'd grown up. Even walkin…

Indulging in urban fantasy

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Last weekend was Labor Day, which is the occasion for the annual Mayors' Bike Ride through Cedar Rapids. I wrote about that last year. Registration for the ride was down, from 456 in 2013 to 359 in 2014, and from five mayors to three, maybe due to somewhat unsettled weather.

Again this year, I volunteered for the Linn County Trails Association, and for the second year in a row was stationed at the intersection of 3rd Av and 10th St SE. I got there in plenty of time, and so while I waited for riders to guide I took the measure of my surroundings (and, of course, chatted up the talking traffic light).

Two corners of the intersection are occupied by historic church buildings:
Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, which dates from 1914 (the parish building next door is even older, says Cedar Rapids megahistorian Mark Stouffer-Hunter)...
...and First Lutheran Church (ELCA), which dates from 1910. This might have been a dangerous intersection at which to hang out during the Reformation,…