This week I was able to make a trip with the Topeka Chamber of Commerce to the Quad Cities in Iowa/Illinois. This was my first time, but they make the trip each year to a city that is comparable to Topeka in size and with a similar vision of growth. More than 60 people went this year, including several council members, Mayor Bunten, City Manager Bonaparte and several business owners.
Davenport, Iowa - where we stayed - is in the process of developing its riverfront and downtown area. We were able tour the area and visit with Davenport and the Quad Cities' leaders to get advice on how they got ideas, developers, funding... and made the changes happen to improve the quality of life and the appearance of their city. There was so much information and by the end of the trip, everyone was excited to come back home to Topeka and get started on improving the capital city.
One thing that seemed to be a consensus of the group is that, while there are things to be done, people aren't aware of all the great things Topeka already does offer. Some things the Davenport leadership pointed out is that you cannot disinvest in your future. To get things done and get them done right, you're going to have to spend money. The return on that investment, though, is great and they have the numbers to prove it. Something else they said was if you don't care about your city, you can't expect others to. If you want to bring people (and in turn, revenue) you've got to make your city a place others want to visit and/or live.
There was way too much information for me to lay it all out here, but they got many of us in the group thinking that what Topeka should do is have a dialogue amongst citizens rather than a "public hearing" where residents are talked to rather than conversing and brainstorming ideas and how to get things done.
I'm curious, what would you like to see done? What are the positives and negatives you find with the city you live in and how do you think it could be made "better?"
Here are some pictures from the trip!
This is a view of a bridge crossing the Mississippi. On the other side lies Illinois.
Drew and I like the view along the riverfront... and the ice cream we ate moments before this picture :).
The group stopped during a tour of the Quad Cities downtown and riverfront areas.
We met with Davenporte city leaders at this historic ballpark that is along the river -- Modern Madmen Stadium
One major project downtown -- the construction of the Figge, a major art museum.
Here is one of the pieces of art that greets you at the Figge - a collection of hanging corn sculptures.
Psychedelic: One of the things built more as an aesthetic draw than being utilitarian was this skywalk that lights up at night. It does add a great visual element to the downtown area.
Boarding the charter buses to head back to Topeka.