For lunch, I attended a focus group on how to attract more residents to live downtown Cedar Rapids and yes, I received a free food for my efforts. I was considering living downtown last fall when the Bottleworks Loft Condos were completed which was the reason for my volunteering. I still think the idea of downtown living is cool, but ultimately too many cons to justify the move.
Another participant put it perfectly, she said the city needs to invest more in the downtown area before the residents will invest their time and money. The organizer then asked what kind of a “premium” we would be willing to pay to live downtown compared to a traditional neighborhood. We all laughed when one guy said, “premium, how about a discount to live there?”
If the city wants residents to live and play downtown, then it has to pony up the money to make it desirable.
Here’s my list of wants/ needs before I ever make the move.
- Ample green space for pets, hanging out, and gatherings. Greene Square Park is nice but too many bums to get a good game of ultimate frisbee going.
- Easy access to a store. It’s impossible to ride or walk to get milk or another of groceries if living downtown. The whole point of living urban is to leave the car parked. How about a Trader Joes type store?
- A more pedestrian friendly infrastructure. Right now I see more cars and driving going on rather than biking and walking downtown. The Ped Mall in Iowa City would be a good example to copy.
- Lastly, any residence I live in would have to be safe and secure. This includes safety from crime, floods, and investment. I want to live somewhere that I don’t have to worry about my possessions, losing everything to a flood, or buying a place worth 15% less three years later.
A great idea for the city came from one of the participants. He had the idea of starting with smaller clusters or neighborhoods vs focusing on the downtown as a whole. Downtown is very large, something like 10 blocks by 10 blocks depending on who you ask. If the city focuses on smaller areas (Czech Village, 3rd St, or Greene Square) I think they could really start creating a cool place to hang out and live.
Until then, I guess CR downtown living is just an idea…