116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The pandemic dealt a blow to downtowns in cities across the nation as office workers did their jobs from home and deprived businesses such as restaurants and coffee shops daytime customers. That includes Cedar Rapids.
Some workers have returned to the office, some have not and some never will. The competition for talent to fill jobs has led employers to allow the workplace flexibility employees want. Remote work, at least partially, is here to stay.
So Cedar Rapids city leaders are wisely reimagining a vision for the city’s core. They’re getting set to partner with the Downtown Self-Supported Improvement Municipal Improvement district to hit the refresh button on the city’s Vision Downtown master plan.
More downtown housing is at the top of the list, with core residents providing a customer base for businesses, including a potential grocery store. More amenities are on the list as the city seeks to develop recreational opportunities along the Cedar River greenway and plans for a major new entertainment and mixed used development at First and First West. Some are advocating for walkable neighborhoods surrounding downtown within a 15-minute walk of activities and amenities.
A proposed casino, however, will have to wait after Iowa Lawmakers slapped a two-year moratorium on new gambling licenses
With amenities and large events at entertainment venues comes the need for more hotel beds. There’s talk of more public art, trails and other efforts to pull people downtown.
These are all good ideas for rethinking downtown as a nighttime and weekend destination and not just stacks of offices occupied Monday through Friday.
But we’ll be more eager to see the plan that comes from all of this reimagining. We’ll be interested to see the details on how the city and its partners, which should also include Linn County officials, will make this happen. We’re particularly interested in how the city plans to pull long-awaited but delayed developments across the finish line. Although breweries, bars and restaurants are great, we hope the focus is on attractions that can draw all ages downtown.
Downtown is clearly an important economic engine for the city and region. We hope to soon see how our city’s leaders re-imagine its potential.
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