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New downtown Cedar Rapids marketing campaign focuses on three keys

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CEDAR RAPIDS — A new logo and marketing campaign will try to re-establish a strong image for downtown Cedar Rapids.

New CR Downtown banners began going up on buildings and lampposts downtown Tuesday afternoon. The campaign uses a tagline of “dine, dwell and do” and the images show the new restaurant, housing and entertainment offerings in the core city center.

Supporters in the Downtown Self-Supporting Municipal Improvement District, or SSMID, said the post flood recovery downtown has progressed to the point building owners and merchants in the area feel it’s time to “make a little noise” and make an impression on both residents and visitors.

Randy Rings, chairman of the downtown SSMID, said that’s really the point of the whole marketing campaign.

“Now we think the need is how do we help downtown landowners take that next step. We’ve got energy, we’ve got momentum and so we build on that and grow,” Rings said.

Rings and other SSMID members said a few years ago, the downtown was still a work in progress with the ongoing flood recovery. But as the hotel and convention center opened and other development took place the image of downtown has begun changing.

One big change is the new downtown housing opportunities either open or on the way.

One example is the old Coventry Gardens mini-mall on First Avenue southeast. It’s only about 60 work days away from a total transformation into 19 downtown loft apartments.

One commercial realtor estimated 250 housing units are either in advanced planning or under actual construction in the core areas of downtown.

Developer Darryl High said interest in his project is fairly strong.

“We have 37 people on a list interested in these 19 lofts. I think the city’s done a great job and we’re excited to have Coventry Lofts down here,” he said.

Another changing portion of downtown is both the entertainment and dining options.

Bistro on the River is the downtown’s newest restaurant — opening just a month ago. Economic developers said before the flood of 2008 there were 45 bars and restaurants downtown. Now, there are 46 and they see that as a sign of progress.

Owner Brittany Hannah would like more company because it’s good for business.

“I feel the more restaurants that are down here we can feed off each other. And rather than people saying I’m not going downtown because there’s nothing here they’ll say oh, this new place is here now,” Hannah said.

Downtown supporters said it’s important for people to recognize the growth and improvement that’s going on downtown. And one way to get that message through is the marketing campaign.

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