CEDAR RAPIDS — A new effort underway could map out how New Bohemia and Czech Village grow with major investment, such as developing untapped city land, greenways, replacing the Eighth Avenue bridge, and the Smokestack pedestrian bridge, on the horizon.
City leaders are seeking public input on the Czech Village/NewBo Action Plan, a comprehensive look at the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for these two distinct districts. The timing is right with the progress in flood control in this area and the momentum already seen in Newbo-Czech Village, said Jennifer Pratt, Cedar Rapids community development director.
“We’ve had really good turnout at these, and I think the reason is that when we get feedback, that feedback, turns into projects,” Pratt said.
“We are not doing this to check a box off. This is absolutely something where we know there’s going to be additional investment, both in the parks area, and new commercial, new housing. We want to make sure that whatever happens there is in alignment with what people hope will be there.”
An initial visioning workshop will be held Wednesday at the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, 1400 Inspiration Pl. SW.
A facilitated discussion from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. will elicit feedback on topics such as bike and pedestrian access, how street aesthetics can be improved and what kind of new development the public is interested in.
Six stakeholder groups represent the areas, and they hope to develop a shared vision among them and users of the districts.
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Steve Shriver, of the NewBo Association and owner of businesses in both neighborhoods, said he is glad the city is lending its expertise to develop a strategy. He wants to get down in the details about lighting and looks, among other topics.
“Most efforts here have been very grass roots, very independent, and this is an opportunity for the community to really share their vision from the ground up and really share with the city’s expertise,” Shriver said. “Hopefully, we can make it an even greater destination than it already is.”
Abby Huff, executive director of The District — formerly Czech Village NewBo Main Street — said she wants to preserve the established character while maintaining equitable access for the diverse mix of people who live and visit the area.
“We want to make sure the missing pieces are thought about when they are infilled and blend in well with what we have already in terms of architecture and infrastructure,” Huff said.
“We don’t want to be ‘Anywhere, USA.’ We want to make sure we maintain the uniqueness of who we already are.”
Feedback is being sought on whether the districts need a gateway marker or arch and what it should look like, what to do with city-owned property such as what was opened up with the Sinclair levee, addressing the transition from NewBo to downtown, and amenities.
A draft of goals and action steps will be developed based on the feedback from the initial workshop and presented at a second workshop in July. A final plan is expected to go before the City Council for adoption before the end of the year.
The city has led similar efforts, including the College District Action Plan, Mount Vernon Road Corridor Action Plan and the Northwest Neighborhood Action Plan.
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The plans articulate goals consistent with the city’s comprehensive plans that are tailored to the specific region. The plans can help shape policy of elected city leaders when taking action on items such as road improvements, trails or offering development incentives, and create a road map for investors when considering what type of business the neighborhood would support or desired aesthetics.
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