Government

7 take-aways from Hart's first State of the City speech

Hart highlights new downtown hotels, newbo evolve and flood protection.

Mayor Brad Hart speaks Wednesday at the annual State of the City luncheon, hosted by the League of Women Voters of Linn County, at the downtown Cedar Rapids Convention Complex. Hart, who took office in January, focused on the city's progress since the devastating flood of 2008 and on its plans for the future. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Mayor Brad Hart speaks Wednesday at the annual State of the City luncheon, hosted by the League of Women Voters of Linn County, at the downtown Cedar Rapids Convention Complex. Hart, who took office in January, focused on the city's progress since the devastating flood of 2008 and on its plans for the future. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Mayor Brad Hart delivered his first State of the City address to about 580 people at the Cedar Rapids Convention Complex on Wednesday.

Hart said of his 40-minute speech he hoped to convey the progress made as the 10-year flood anniversary approaches in June and showcase what’s to come.

Seven take-aways:

1. Hart attempted to “alleviate some fears” tied to mergers and acquisitions impacting major local employers.

The pending sale of Rockwell Collins to United Technologies Corp. will mean the relocation of top executives out of state, but local job impact will be small, charitable giving is likely to continue, and two Cedar Rapids-based divisions of the future Collins Aerospace “could and should grow.”

Tata Consultancy Services, an international information technology and consulting company with 370,000 employees, is expected to complete a partnership with Transamerica in the second quarter.

Given TCS’ size, Hart foresees “tremendous opportunity for growth” with its U.S. headquarters based in Cedar Rapids.

Meanwhile, Transamerica is planning major improvements as it relocates employees to its C Street SW location.

“There’s some positive things here,” Hart said.

2. One or possibly two new hotels could be coming to the downtown, Hart said.

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Developers have targeted the city block including the Guaranty Bank Building for redevelopment, with officials anticipating a boutique hotel, or a boutique and modern hotel. The historic Guaranty Building would be incorporated into the redevelopment, not demolished.

This will “give us the chance to host even larger events and conventions” downtown, Hart said.

3. Hart called GO Cedar Rapids’ new signature festival, newbo evolve, scheduled for Aug. 3-5 and featuring Kelly Clarkson and Maroon 5, a positive boost. A video message from Clarkson played during the event.

“So stoked to see all of you at newbo evolve Friday, Aug. 3,” she said. “We are going to do so some singing, some dancing, and some fun, all right. Brad, I am expecting you to be front row. Don’t disappointment me.”

Tied to the event is a zip line across the Cedar River between NewBo and Czech Village from May to August.

Hart joked he hoped to use his “new status as mayor to secure the first official ride.”

4. Hart called for citizens to apply and serve on local boards and commissions.

“I am asking each of you to commit to offering your time, talent, connections — and maybe even your money in some cases — to help move our city forward,” he said.

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5. The city is planning to reinstate its Affordable Housing Commission to help with neighborhood stabilization efforts.

It also plans to refocus efforts to make neighborhood associations more effective and to help establish neighborhood associations where effective ones don’t exist.

6. Bike share stations are planned to be installed throughout downtown, the New Bohemia District, Czech Village and other areas, thanks to a $100,000 grant from the Wellmark Foundation.

Plans to install those bike stations have been pushed back from this year to the spring of 2019.

7. Hart said recent interactions at the federal level regarding flood protection, including his visit to the White House and Rep. Rod Blum’s recent meeting with President Donald Trump, “give him a positive sign some money is going to free up for Cedar Rapids.”

l Comments: (319) 339-3177; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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