116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
This summer the downtown Cedar Rapids SSMID (Self-Supported Municipality District) unveiled a new brand and logo for the district. Meant to distinguish our downtown and embrace the river that runs through it, the unveiling coincided with the successful return of the Downtown Farmers Market on June 19.
This new “look” for downtown is the culmination of much effort on the part of the SSMID Commission, staff at the Economic Alliance, a local marketing firm and several downtown stakeholders and volunteers.
For nearly 15 months downtown Cedar Rapids — like just about every other city center or district around the globe — saw the throngs of people who comprised their Monday to Friday workforce move to the work-from-home model to repel and stay safe from the coronavirus pandemic. Here locally, nearly 15,000 people who worked in and around downtown prior to the outbreak dwindled to less than 3,000 from March 2020 until late spring of this year.
An 80-plus percent drop in day-to-day foot traffic for our locally owned shops, restaurants and bars was a most difficult hand to play. However, at long last, there is definitive hope on the horizon with more people returning to downtown every day.
Downtowns and other core districts are essential for communities as they strive to grow and thrive. They remind us of our heritage and where we have been, but they also provide a window to the future and where we’re going. And they are for everyone. The City of Cedar Rapids has done tremendous work in recent years improving the overall walkability and connectivity of our downtown. It has been proven time and again that places with improved scores in these two regards lead directly to healthier communities and ones with higher household incomes per capita.
Leaders and staff at City Hall are also working tirelessly to support private developers who are trying to bring transformative projects to the core of our city like re-engineering the 5:1 dam to allow for recreational use, a dual hotel and rooftop bar at 3rd & 3rd and an essential multiuse development at 1st & 1st West.
This new look for the Downtown District is in no way transformative. But we do hope it marks the time in which our community and its core began its bounce back from another disaster — this one being a crisis that impacted our entire planet.
I had lived in Cedar Rapids for three years when the cataclysmic flood of 2008 hit. I witnessed firsthand the strength and resiliency of the city and its residents. I have every expectation that our local comeback story will mirror the success that occurred here over a decade ago. There is plenty of reason to be hopeful and excited. We believe locals and visitors alike will see the improvements and added vibrancy to our downtown. It was the ultimate shot in the arm to see nearly 13,000 people flood the streets at the first three farmers markets of the new season. Hopefully in the not-too-distant future we will look back at that time as a harbinger for the progress and the good to come.
Jesse Thoeming is executive director of the Cedar Rapids Downtown District.