With suggestions ranging from expanding the use of the Roosevelt Community Center to making Rockingham Road a viable commercial corridor to improving property maintenance, a group of seven University of Iowa graduate students talked about how to improve Davenport’s west end.

About 50 people attended the 90-minute meeting at the Roosevelt Community Center, with many coming away with a better appreciation of what needs to be done.

Sue Marshall, who has lived in the west end since 1964, said the students touched on all the right things.

University of Iowa professor Charles Connerly, whose students in the School of Urban and Regional Planning have been performing the study, said the students recognized that the west end needs to develop a balanced commercial establishment.

“There’s only one grocery store in the area,” he said. “If people want anything else, they have to drive to get it.”

The students also suggested that the area take advantage of the many parks in the west end and connect them with bike or walking paths, Connerly said. Additionally, there should be signs so that when people drive in from other areas, they know they are not just entering Davenport but are in the west end.

The west end needs a greater identity in the community, he said, adding that many of the residents think the west end has been ignored and overlooked.

Iowa graduate student Ray Heitner said the team has been working with the city of Davenport and west-end residents since about mid-January on the project.

“Something that we really came to appreciate over the last several months is the amount of enthusiasm the west-end residents have for making the area a better place,” Heitner said. “There’s a real commitment here to turn things around in the west end and make something really remarkable here.”

Graduate student Bailee McClellan said the key to making any of the suggestions come to fruition is for west-end residents to organize a strong neighborhood association that is involved in city planning and will fight for the west end.

Marshall said that the population of the west end is older, “so maybe the person to lead the neighborhood should be younger and someone who can deal with the city’s bureaucracy.”

Travis Fisher, pastor of St. Mark Evangelical Lutheran Church, 2363 W. 3rd St., said the students presented great ideas.

“The big question is where is the funding for the proposals,” Fisher said. “They hit the nail on the head when they talked about the people making their voices heard.

“It’s interesting, when people talk about east Davenport, that is what they call it, the east side of Davenport, but when they talk about the west end, it’s simply the west end, and they leave Davenport off,” Fisher said. “That may go back to the time when this was Rockingham Township.”

Alderman Rick Dunn, 1st Ward, who has been working with the students, said the only way to get the ideas made into reality will be to get the people involved and keep them involved.

“This is going to be a long process, but you have to start somewhere,” Dunn said. “It didn’t get this way overnight, and we can’t fix all the problems overnight.

“But the potential here in the end of town is tremendous. It can go anywhere. It’s a great place for people to live, it’s a great neighborhood, and it’s a great place for businesses to locate.”