Davenport city planning staff unveiled the framework for revitalizing the city’s neighborhoods, particularly in the downtown core area, during a 90-minute meeting Tuesday in City Council chambers.
The framework calls for revitalizing and developing “Welcoming Neighborhoods,” by extending the Urban Revitalization Tax Exemptions that businesses receive to homeowners to draw people to specific neighborhoods as well as creating a land bank, whose main function is to provide loans for land purposes.
The city wants to ensure a “Well-protected Community,” by realigning the NETS or Neighborhoods Energized to Succeed, as well as having a public safety camera program and having a juvenile assessment center.
The city also wants to have a “Sustainable Infrastructure,” with sidewalk and neighborhood street repair programs, and develop a “Vibrant Region,” with neighborhood amenities, educational partnerships and socio-economically diverse neighborhoods.
What was presented to Davenport Mayor Frank Klipsch and eight of Davenport’s 10 aldermen is characterized by Alderman Kerri Tompkins, 8th Ward, as “the overarching goal for the city.” From there aldermen and city staff can “build our objectives and tasks specifically for the areas of the city,” Tompkins said.
Aldermen Rich Clewell, 6th Ward, and Mike Matson, 7th Ward, did not attend Tuesday's meeting.
Klipsch said it was important to get the format set up as an initial step and then flesh out the exactly what aldermen want so that everyone is on the same page.
“It’s going to take some time to put this together,” Klipsch said. “Expect unfinished business. We’re not going to get it all done,” he said, referring to the fact that future city councils will be building on the neighborhood revitalization that the current council is putting together and initiating. “This is a long process that will take years to do, not just weeks.”
Alderman Rita Rawson, 5th Ward, said she would have liked to have seen “more meat on the bone.”
For instance, she said that the city should be working to increase residency as a way to revitalize neighborhoods.
“We could have a down payment assistance program,” Rawson said. “Other cities have done it. We could offer 20 percent down payment assistance for certain groups such as teachers or union workers to live in certain areas, maybe in a URTE area to increase people moving into the area and buying a home.
“We could even tie it to a business, with new people at Genesis, new people at (St.) Ambrose, or new people at Palmer,” she said. “Maybe a business moves into the west end we could offer a 20 percent down payment to all those employees with the provision they buy a house within a certain geographical location.”
It could be layered with rebates for repairs, with possibly 25-35 percent reimbursement for exterior and interior repairs, she added.
For low income individuals the city could have a five- to seven-year loan forgiveness program to help them with siding and painting as well as other repairs and upgrades, Rawson said. They would have to stay in the home for the five- to seven-year period.
Sarah Ott, a management analyst for the city, said what staff presented Tuesday “is our goal for all neighborhoods.” Strategies to get specific neighborhoods up to standard will vary across the board. “But the goal remains the same,” she added.
Ott said that staff wanted to “gain consensus from the council on these priority areas so that we as staff can add to and flesh out the strategies and metrics. This is not a finished document."
Calling Rawson’s suggestions excellent ideas, Ott added that, “Now that we know that’s what council wants to focus in on we can go back and research creative programs on how other communities have done that. Our goal is to bring you a much more robust matrix and program in June.”
Ott said it is important for the council to provide staff with guidance so that the staff can target its efforts where the city’s leaders want.
That guidance will be important in the first years of the plan, she said. “These neighborhoods did not decline over a three- to five-year period,” Ott said. “This is decades of disinvestment and we will have to invest for decades to come if we want to turn these neighborhoods around. We know that there is no short term solution to this but we want to build programs that we can layer on top of each other and be successful in the long run.
‘But council needs to agree on what the priority areas need to be so staff can bring a much more robust plan in order to accomplish those priorities,” she added.
Alderman JJ Condon, at large, said that what the council is attempting to do could go against the housing market, and that aspect needs to be recognized.
“Normally neighborhoods that are in higher demand have higher property values and higher prices,” Condon said. “There’s a higher demand for those neighborhoods so we’re trying to get people of means to choose to live in a different geographical area than the general marketplace would normally encourage them to live.”
The city should consider creating a marketing plan “and should be active in creating these neighborhoods,” he said. “I think we should map out a five- or 10-year plan for what this looks like on a physical map.”
City planning staff and council will meet again in June when staff will provide more specific details on current and future ideas.