116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — The four Cedar Rapids mayoral candidates see opportunity for a more vibrant downtown with a mix of developments, including more affordable housing, they said in a forum hosted Thursday by The Gazette.
TrueNorth executive Amara Andrews, the Advocates for Social Justice vice president, said that with a thriving not-for-profit sector, entrepreneurial ecosystem and low cost of living, Cedar Rapids should be a “destination city for workers and for families.”
But downtown could use “some nutrition,” Andrews said, to take advantage of the Cedar River and provide more amenities and family-friendly entertainment reflecting the city’s diversity.
Andrews said more affordable housing is needed in all four quadrants to break down “silos” and make Cedar Rapids more inclusive.
“We need to tell the story of Cedar Rapids,” Andrews said. “We need to explain to people that this is a desirable place to live.”
Mayor Brad Hart, who touted his experience as mayor and long-standing community volunteer work, said he is seeking re-election in the Nov. 2 election because there is more to do to develop additional amenities and “make this a home for everyone.”
He thinks what the city is doing to build more housing, such as offering tax incentives, is working as units continue to come online as developers from around the country pursue Cedar Rapids projects. Hart highlighted a recent state award of about $4.5 million in workforce housing tax credits.
Hart said the downtown area is more healthy than it was after the 2008 flood, but he sees opportunities for more housing and another hotel, in addition to the city-owned DoubleTree by Hilton hotel.
“I’ve helped lead Cedar Rapids through a pandemic and recovery from a derecho,” Hart said. “Despite those two setbacks, Cedar Rapids has shown how strong it is and how resilient it is so far under my leadership as mayor.”
Women Lead Change Chief Executive Officer Tiffany O’Donnell said downtown is a quiet “shadow of itself,” and all successful cities have a strong urban core. To attract people and workers, she said she wanted to see a mix of housing development as part of a vibrant downtown, as well as bars, restaurants, shops and a thriving riverfront.
She spoke of looking to recruit the workforces and businesses of the future, with one component of that being housing — affordable units for “people who need a hand up” and for employees, particularly new workers.
“A lack of leadership is setting us back, that we’re simply OK with being OK,” O’Donnell said. “ … We’re tired of watching the cities around us passing us by.”
Quaker Oats employee Myra Colby Bradwell, formerly known as Gregory Hughes, pitched himself as a “common person” and said taxes are too high while residents don’t get enough in return.
He feels the community has become stagnant and said some companies are moving out of town “because they don’t feel that they’re being treated fairly.”
“We do not have respect for people and ourself,” Bradwell said.
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