The 6th Avenue Corridor through the River Bend and Cheatom Park Neighborhoods was named one of Iowa’s first Urban Neighborhood Districts by Main Street Iowa, a program within the Iowa Department of Economic Development (IDED). IDED Director Mike Tramontina named the new designees at a ceremony on Monday at 2 p.m.

Continue reading...

Center on Sustainable Communities is hosting a series of Open Houses at their "Des Moines Green Demo Home", 1347 Forest Ave. The events are free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

Come view this amazing infill home at any of three open house times:

  • Sunday, May 17th from 2:00 - 4:00pm
  • Tuesday, May 19th from 11:00am - 1:00pm
  • Tuesday, May 19th from 4:00 - 7:00pm
Continue reading...

My wife and I had a conversation tonight about keeping things in perspective and appreciating the good things we have. It reminded me a little of a Louis CK bit about flying in an airplane.

Everything is amazing right now, and nobody's happy.... Flying is the worst one because people come back from flights and they tell you their story. And it's like a horror story. They act like their flight was a like a cattle car in '40's Germany. That's how bad they make it sound:

Continue reading...

Victorian Home in Danger of Demolition: This home is on the City's "Public Nuisance" list and may be demolished if deficiencies are not corrected in a timely manner.Victorian Home in Danger of Demolition: This home is on the City's "Public Nuisance" list and may be demolished if deficiencies are not corrected in a timely manner.The Iowa legislature recently passed a bill more than doubling the Iowa historic rehabilitation tax credit. The program had previously been capped at $20 million; it is now capped at $50 million - 10% of which is dedicated specifically to "small" projects of under $500,000.

As a revitalization stimulus and economic engine, historic tax credits are an excellent investment. Not only do they leverage significant private capitalized investment, but they also encourage preservation of historic buildings. Because the tax credits are not issued until the project is complete and put "in use", the economic return to the state actually precedes the tax credit payout.

Historic tax credits can be used throughout the state in both urban and rural areas. In urban areas, qualifying buildings can be located in a designated historic district, individually nominated, or eligible for nomination. In rural areas and small towns, bridges, barns, and other potentially eligible properties may qualify for the credits.

While large rehabilitation projects often steal the limelight, even a privately owned single family home can qualify. With the expanded credit, I look forward to a new professional infrastructure developing to help shepard projects of all sizes through the process: architects, engineers, tax credit consultants, and accountants.

Continue reading...

Chicken: Photo by Erica Zahn via Wikimedia CommonsChicken: Photo by Erica Zahn via Wikimedia CommonsI would love to raise chickens. In theory. The reality is, of course, that I don't have enough time to raise chickens. I don't even change the kitty litter often enough.

Yet, the idea of going out to the coop on a Saturday morning to gather eggs for breakfast is very appealing. I also like the idea of utilizing the "natural fertilizer" they create to power the garden I have planned. Oh, and chickens are fun.

When my fifth grade class hatched chickens, I took home two of the hatchlings "Abbott" and "Costello", and kept them for eight weeks. The agreement was that I could keep them until they got too big for their cardboard box in the garage. At that point, they would be relocated to my dad's co-worker's farm, where they would live happy and productive lives. Unless they were actually an Abbott and a Costello instead of an Agatha and Costella. If they couldn't produce eggs, they were to end up at the kitchen table themselves.

Luckily for them, my names were incorrect.

Continue reading...

Property of  "Your Gay" State of IowaProperty of "Your Gay" State of IowaThis sign doesn't make a whole lot of sense to begin with. It was posted right next to a public sidewalk under Highway 61 in downtown Dubuque. I guess it is directing people to stay on the sidewalk - perhaps it should read "Property of the State of Iowa"? I would have preferred a more genial "Please Stay on the Sidewalk".

While I assume the graffiti was written in response to the recent court decision striking down Iowa's Defense of Marriage act, I can't quite figure out whether it expresses gay pride or the (irrational) belief that Iowa has somehow been made gay.

If one is in the mood to deface public property (which I of course discourage), one should consider both the visibility of the location and the effectiveness of the message. It might be more effective and humorous to slap "Gay Marriage" under a Stop sign (anti-) or "to Gay Marriage" under a Yield sign (pro-).

Either way, given the sign's location I don't imagine a whole lot of people even notice this obscure political statement.

Continue reading...

Dubuque Skywalk: Skywalk between the Grand River Center and the adjacent hotel in Dubuque, Iowa.Dubuque Skywalk: Skywalk between the Grand River Center and the adjacent hotel in Dubuque, Iowa.It might appear at first glance that I am anti-skywalk. And you would be right in most cases. I just found another egregious example in Dubuque, Iowa, of all places.

More about this later. First a little background. I am in Dubuque for a lead paint "visual risk assessor/sampling technician" training. After class today, I decided to take advantage of the beautiful spring weather and go for a self-guided tour of the downtown area. Downtown Dubuque is bordered on the west by the Mississippi River bluffs and on the east by Highway 61, which cuts between downtown and the industrial/recreational areas adjacent to the Mississippi River.

The historic downtown is fabulous, and quite a bit larger than I anticipated. In general, the streets are quite pedestrian-friendly, with trees, wide sidewalks, and relatively dense development. Despite the obligatory gas station and drug store teardowns, much of the historic building fabric remains, running the full range from row houses to 6-story mixed-use walk-ups. Most of the storefronts appear to be occupied, though by the time I got there I was relegated to peering in windows.

Continue reading...

Yesterday, the Iowa Supreme court issued a unanimous ruling declaring the state's "Defense of Marriage" act unconstitutional. I am not a legal scholar, and must pull my understanding of this ruling from other sources. In essence, the Court has determined that the State Constitution forbids discrimination in issuing marriage licenses based on the sex of the people applying for the license. By specifically defining marriage as between a man and a woman, the DOMA took on the state constitution and lost. Big time.

Continue reading...

Despite my previous two posts, downtown Des Moines could really learn a thing or two from downtown Atlanta. An entire mini-neighborhood of walkable, pedestrian-friendly streets remain in the older portions of the large downtown.

Take this for example:
Pedestrian Friendly Street (Atlanta)Pedestrian Friendly Street (Atlanta)

Continue reading...

I'm not a fan of the Des Moines skywalk system, but someone please forward this memo to the "At Least Des Moines Didn't Screw Up This Bad" department.

I am in Atlanta for a conference, and have spent a couple afternoons (yes, after classes let out) exploring downtown Atlanta on foot. There is a clear line of demarcation between the older portion where the streets were built to accommodate pedestrians comfortably, and the "urban renewal" portion where the historic buildings have been systematically replaced with brutal high rises and the streets can best be described as pedestrian hell.

The post 60's section has an extensive skywalk system, perhaps constructed as a response to the horrible street level pedestrian experience, perhaps a culprit.

The most egregious example I found is pictured below.

Peachtree Center SkywalkPeachtree Center Skywalk

What you see here is a two city block long, six story high, six foot wide intestine that collects nutritious pedestrians from nearby hotels and parking garages, digests them, and then poops them out into the Mall at Peachtree Center.

Continue reading...