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It's Time to Do Something to Revitalize Cedar Rapids
May 3, 2006
[Note: This material is copyright by The Gazette, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of The Gazette.]
Jamie Licko, outgoing executive director of the Downtown District, expressed interesting musings about Cedar Rapids. She paid the obligatory homage to ‘‘the pain of saying goodbye’’ yet made it clear that she sees huge potholes in the psyche of this city and its ability to move forward.
I agree. I have been in Cedar Rapids since 1966. It was an emerald city, considered by many to be the most progressive city in the state and one of the best in the Midwest. It is now 2006. ‘‘Stalled’’ is a kind and diplomatic term Licko used.
If I were in charge of showcasing this city for prospective residents, there are numerous places, things and attitudes I would not want them to see. Westdale Mall, for instance, has gone beyond sad to disgusting. The old Holiday Inn graces our southwest quadrant neighborhood, complete with broken windows, graffiti and rumors that it is in the process of being razed. The area around St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church begs for rebirth, reminding me of wicked areas I have seen in Camden and Newark, N.J.
We have a populace that votes down every new idea and proposed project. We have a municipal administration, just ushered out, that was inept at creating, co-opting and executing anything.
It is easy to vote no. I am ambivalent about gambling but can guarantee you the area around the old packing plant would look better than it does today if that referendum had passed. As FDR exclaimed, ‘‘If something does not work, we will try something else, but we will do SOMETHING!’’ Scott Olson and other investors are working on revitalizing areas of downtown. Bob Kazimour was the energy behind the gambling referendum. Hopefully, our new city government, some new movers and shakers and the populace can rekindle a visionary and proactive attitude.