As climate change intensifies, small cities will be hit just as hard, if not harder, than their larger counterparts. That’s why on February 3, the aldermen of Davenport, Iowa, unanimously voted to approve the Davenport 2030: A Resilient City master plan, a development roadmap for strengthening the city’s urban core.
The full Davenport 2030 report, available online here, lays out why a comprehensive master plan is needed. The city of approximately 100,000 has been buffeted by what it calls a “triple threat” in recent years: Environmental (the Mississippi River flooded its banks in 2019 and put the city under nearly 23 feet of water), economic (like other Midwestern cities, Davenport is being hit hard by brain drain, especially in light of COVID), and equitable (racial injustice). Thus, the Downtown Davenport Partnership (DDP) commissioned the New York-based WXY, Chicago real estate consultants SB Friedman Development Advisors, and New York City engineers Sam Schwartz Engineering to draw up a path toward downtown resiliency that would also spur economic development.
Thus, the team laid out five central pillars. Each will be acted on in three distinct phases. “Back to Baseline” is concerned with what can be done in the next 6-to-18 months; the medium-term projects are concerned with the next 2-to-5 years, and the long-term projects are intended for 6-to-10 years down the line. A public survey sent out in June 2020, asking the community about their feelings on Downtown Davenport, and what could be improved (and what would entice them to come back post-COVID), as well as steering group meetings, factored into the five pillars:
- Playful, Connected, & Protected focuses on the actual resiliency aspect, including building parklets, boosting waterfront flood mitigation, and creating a cultural trail. But more than that, this aspect of the plan also includes calming traffic and introducing bike lanes, beautifying the downtown area with arts grants, and ultimately connecting the waterfront to the rest of the city via a river walk.
- The Livable pillar focuses on quality-of-life improvements intended to entice residents to live downtown. That includes enhancing street lighting and buffing cleaning and maintenance services, but also eventually redeveloping now-empty historic structures into residential and mixed-use complexes.
- The Innovative pillar is all about attracting tech talent to the city’s core. In the shorter term that means establishing a mentorship system and offering financial tools to potential business owners, but longer term, the planning team wants to establish an innovation district and find a partner to build out a technology and innovation hub.
- The Inclusive pillar is just that. Shorter term, this section is about providing material support to minority and women-owned businesses downtown and increasing the diversity of the area’s residents, as well as hosting events to celebrate the cultures who live there; longer term, the suggestions and input from residents and a diversity task force will be integrated into the design of all future infrastructure and art projects.
- Finally, the Celebrated pillar is concerned with enhancing Downtown Davenport’s identity. That will be done through enhancing wayfinding, and ultimately building financial and cultural partnerships across the Quad Cities region.
Davenport is the largest of the Quad Cities (which, contrary to its name, now has five members across southeastern Iowa and northwestern Illinois), and is hoping to further develop its extant network of museums, libraries, and art institutions. While the adoption of Davenport 2030 doesn’t bind the city to build any of its recommendations, the plan will be used to guide development and downtown investments moving forward.