Emerging Cedar Rapids comprehensive plan shows off greenway features, responsible growth

By Rick Smith, The Gazette

CEDAR RAPIDS — Comprehensive plans for a city’s future can land in bottom drawers and on back burners and be forgotten.

Not this one, Cedar Rapids city officials said Wednesday.

The city is creating its first new comprehensive plan since 1999 in a public participation process called EnvisionCR.

In two sessions on Wednesday, city officials unveiled the emerging aspects of the plan, showing the public how it is incorporating ideas shaped, in part, from comments that have come in since March.

Gary and Lynn Stansbery, who renovated their flood-damaged house on Eighth Street NW after the 2008 flood, said Wednesday that they were thrilled to see the plans for the proposed greenway in what had been the Time Check Neighborhood, plans which now include bike trails, a dog park, a skate park and a spot to put kayaks and canoes into the Cedar River.

“We want something there. We’re so tired of looking at nothing. It’s been six years,” Lynn Stansbery said.

Les Beck, director of Linn County’s Department of Planning and Development, stopped at Wednesday’s noontime session to see what the city had in mind for the future.

Beck said the emerging plan shows that the city expects outward growth to the north, west and south, and he said it will be interesting to see which of those directions might become a priority.

Bart Woods, president and chief executive officer of Primus Construction, said he liked the way the plan incorporated how the city should develop north along the C Avenue NE corridor and along the Highway 100 extension now under construction to the west.

“I just like the fact that we’re not just looking at this new major road coming through here with all these wonderful strip centers and big boxes,” said Woods, who likes neighborhoods where residents can walk to some of what they need.

“At least we’re thinking about what kind of makes sense. So you’re never too far. You don’t have to jump in your car to go somewhere.”

Jennifer Pratt, the city’s interim development director, said Cedar Rapids residents are engaged in the creation of the new plan for its future because of the city’s ability to recover from the 2008 flood.

“Since the flood, so much has changed and so much has actually been done,” Pratt said. “People are really seeing that these are not plans that are going to put on a shelf. They are things that we are using to guide policy and resources. Things are happening.”

Themes that have emerged in the new plan are sustainability, “placemaking” or creating attractive public places, health and efficiency, Pratt said. She said the plan promotes strengthening the existing parts of the city with infill development and promoting responsible growth.

Among those contributing ideas have been secondary school students.

“Really, the comprehensive plan is for building the city for their generation,” Pratt said. “In 20 years, what will this community look like? Is it going to be somewhere where they will want to live?”

Dale Kueter, a retired longtime Gazette newspaper reporter, on Wednesday said he’s seen city plans quickly land in the dust heap once the ink on them dries.

Even so, Kueter has presented plenty of ideas to the city as it works to shape its future.

“Some of the ideas stick, and some don’t,” he said. “You keep throwing ideas out there. And some might be looney.”

Kueter said the city could use attractions that make it a destination point: How about the Midwest’s or the nation’s largest water slide to take people from the top of Mount Trashmore, across the Cedar River to a spot on the former Sinclair plant site? How about a food or grain museum in a city that specializes in food processing? he said.

facebook twitter email alerts you tube hooplanow