Mayor Brad Hart 2021 State of the City Message
State of the City
Each year the State of the City provides an opportunity to highlight many of the positive projects and programs the city has been working on for the past year. As with almost everything that has taken place over the last year, this year’s message looks a little different. We invite you to view the above video from Mayor Brad Hart, and then take the time to read about many of the positive achievements within the City over the last year.
2020 Economic Development Highlights
- 12 projects received City Council approval
- $402+ million capital investment
- 252 new jobs created
- 1,376 jobs retained
- 894 new residential units, including 180 affordable units
While many companies in our community encountered significant setbacks in 2020, there were still some bright spots and big wins in terms of economic development projects in Cedar Rapids. Large new projects such as BAE, as well as expansion projects, such as JRS Pharma and In Tolerance were noteworthy projects in 2020.
- Established Urban Dreams program in Cedar Rapids to provide employment mentoring and workforce connections to underserved communities.
- Gateways for Growth Plan continues work to integrate immigrants into our community.
- Cedar Rapids recognized as a Welcoming America city (October 2020)
- IEDA conducted two business impact surveys in 2020 assessing impact against pre-crisis activity.
- Staff conducted 107 business retention calls through the City’s retention program.
- Storm Loss survey established minimum scale of reported business losses from Derecho at $133.4 million.
- ISU-Cedar Rapids Partnership continued food and bio cluster engagement.
- Neighborhood Finance Corporation provided 51 low-interest and forgivable loans to homeowners in specific areas of town generating total investment of $1.3M.
- NFC has also provided leadership in Derecho recovery by administering the Patch Program, along with the Housing Fund for Linn County, Waypoint, and Matthew 25.
- Eviction Prevention – nearly 500 households assisted with rent and utility assistance totaling $750,000, leveraging this with State and other local non-profit resources.
- Overflow Shelter – Open since last spring to handle the health and economic impacts of the pandemic. The City has worked to meet immediate needs through FEMA reimbursement in collaboration with Linn County and local non-profits. City has also committed to long-term investment in a permanent shelter facility.
- Continued popular bike/scooter share program, more than doubling ridership in 2020. This proved to be a good outdoor activity during the pandemic.
- Supported the ConnectCR public-private partnership, which achieved its private fundraising goal of over $7M. This along with the commitments from the City and Hall Perrine Foundation are bringing this project to fruition. From enhancements at Cedar Lake to the destination bridge connecting New Bo and Czech Village, it creates the bookends of our vibrant downtown.
- Council addressed all seven demands of local Advocates for Social Justice, including working closely with ASJ and the community to establish a Citizen Review Board.
- The City saw a total reported valuation of construction of $392,353,081.52 in 2020. This includes all trade permit construction as reported on building permit applications.
- In calendar year 2020, the Building Services Department issued 19,283 permits, which is double the number of permits issued in a typical year. Additionally, approximately 9,500 of those permits were issued a result of damage from the August 10 Derecho.
- These permits include the new constriction of 126 single-family homes and six multi-family construction projects totaling 100 dwelling units.
- In calendar year 2020, the top twenty projects totaled 135 million dollars in reported valuation of construction and include such projects as the BAE facility, Kirkwood Community College campus renovation and expansion, renovation at the Eastern Iowa Airport and the McGrath Amphitheater restroom facility, among countless other projects.
- By utilizing technology, the Building Services Department facilitated alternative methods to perform building trade inspections virtually (through programs such as Zoom and FaceTime) to protect our staff, customers, contractors and the citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- In addition, the Building Services Department along with the Development Services Department streamlined the online permit application and plan review submission process in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Otto the River Otter (and CR Parks & Recreation mascot) welcomes kids to the new Rollin' Recmobile — a van packed with games and activities that moves between parks.
Parks & Recreation
- Launched Rollin’ Rec Mobile to bring programming and activities to our neighborhood parks. These mobile recreation units visited urban areas in Cedar Rapids where kids have fewer recreation opportunities.
- Completed ADA upgrades at Bender Pool and 12 parks and trails in the NE quadrant.
- Constructed Mini Pines, a fully ADA compliant 18-hole miniature golf course. Mini Pines was constructed with a priority placed on ADA accessibility and is one of only a few courses across the country that is fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, allowing wheel chair access to the entire course. The course will be completed in early 2021.
- New playground installed at Cleveland Park featuring a 2- to 5-year-old play structure, 5- to 12-year-old play structure, companion swing and net climber. The playground was purchased with CIP funding, a Hall-Perrine Foundation grant, and donations from the Cleveland Neighborhood Association and Cedar Rapids Kiwanis.
- Installation of a bioreactor at Tuma Sports Complex.
- Police Department and Fire Department both obtained highly regarded accreditation.
- Developed a framework to address the SET (safe, equitable and thriving) task force initiatives to address youth violence.
- Engaged the National Network for Safe Communities to launch GVI (Group Violence Intervention) an evidence based approach to address group violence.
- Fire Department upgraded safety equipment, including external cardiac defibrillators, self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), and a New Ladder 7 truck. These updates are critical to providing safe and efficient response to life-threatening emergencies in the community.
Disaster Support & Recovery
- Successfully obtained personal assistance as part of the Presidential Disaster Declaration that resulted in grants and low interest/long term loans for Iowans, most in Linn County, of more than $40M
- In response to the Pandemic, the City took steps to protect citizens and city workers, while continuing to deliver services. Issued a mask mandate when CR was second in number of cases and the number of deaths in Iowa.
- Committed $1M per year for 10 years for ReLeaf program to help with replanting efforts throughout the community.
- The City contracted with high-volume debris hauler Flannery Trucking, LLC to clean up over 3 million cubic yards of tree debris to date.
- The City assisted residents with clean up, including curbside pickup of storm-damaged household debris such as siding, shingles, damaged fences and sheds, etc.
- The City of Cedar Rapids continues to respond to the community's needs in the wake of the storm.
- To date, Paving for Progress has funded improvements on approximately 64 linear miles on over 200 projects, investing more than $120 million into our road network.
- During the 2020 construction season, the Paving for Progress program completed approximately 10 lane miles of improvements on 26 projects – both local and arterial roads.
- The vast majority of last year’s Paving for Progress projects continued as scheduled, despite COVID-19 and derecho impacts.
- Highlights of last season’s efforts include tackling some of our worst road, such as O Avenue NW, as well as extend the service life of roads such as Old Marion Road NE.
- This coming construction season, work will continue on O Avenue, E Avenue NW, and Bowling Street SW
- Projects starting in 2021 include 6th Street SW, Oakland Road NE, and 12th Avenue SE, just to name a few.
Paving for Progress
Flood Control System
- Adopted a plan to pay for critical flood protection plan on both sides of the river.
- Last November, construction was completed on the 16th Avenue SE floodgate – the first of twenty floodgates planned as part of permanent flood control – and work is currently underway on the 3rd Avenue SE floodgate, which will be completed this year
- Residents can also see flood control underway in Kingston Village near the McGrath Amphitheatre. Work will be completed this spring at the new floodwall segment, built into a public restroom and storage facility – combining flood control with a practical community asset
- More recently, flood control work began at Shaver Road NE, which will eventually include elevating the Shaver Road Bridge and constructing a new levee and trail segment north of Cedar Lake. The levee and trail system will include amenities such as a trail parking lot, pedestrian benches, and scenic viewpoints.
- And the work continues…design efforts are underway on the next floodgates, including at 1st Avenue SE, 12th Avenue SE, and 16th Avenue SW.
- In the coming months, work will begin on an underground floodgate in the Czech Village District, closing off the river from our storm sewer system.
- The installation of the 1st Avenue SE floodgate will begin this summer.
- This fall, work will continue on the west side with a floodwall around the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library
- Ongoing AA bond rating allows us to save millions of dollars in finance charges.
- In September 2020, the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) awarded a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting to the City of Cedar Rapids for its Certified Annual Financial Report for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2019. This is the 39th consecutive year that the City has received this prestigious award.
- The Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada awarded its Distinguished Budget Presentation Award to the City of Cedar Rapids for its fiscal year budget beginning July 1, 2020. This is the 10th consecutive year the City has received this prestigious award.
- The Fleet Services Division was awarded 100 Best Fleets Award in 2020, being recognized for its innovations and efficiencies developed in their shop operations and fleet processes.
- Prompt geographic information systems (GIS) support for damage assessment data collection, app development and post Derecho imagery led to first in the State FEMA disaster declaration for Linn County.
- Implemented Enterprise Zoom Webinars for City Council, City Council Committee and Commission Meetings as well as expanded Facebook Streaming of City Council Committee Meetings.
- Expand capacity of virtual private network, remote desktop servers and communications rapidly to provide access to city employees to work remotely.
- The Joint Communications Fiber Network is being built out to the Floodwall Pump Stations for flow monitoring. (Part of Flood Control System)
- Maintained full water and wastewater service following the Derecho.
- Helping customers empty their refrigerators of spoiling food, Solid Waste & Recycling crews collected 1,042.82 tons of additional garbage immediately following the Derecho.
- 3,932 total tons of non-organic Derecho debris collected (3,578 contractor; 354 City of Cedar Rapids).
- The Blairs Ferry Water Tower was demolished, reducing ongoing maintenance costs and improving the beauty of a key commercial corridor.
- Engineering staff coordinated with Paving for Progress to replace nearly 2,100 feet of water main
- Phase II Improvements and lab renovations completed at J Ave Treatment Plant.
- Water division achieved 100 percent regulatory compliance since September 2017.
- Completed Horizontal Collector Well No. 5.
- Early design work completed for Phase I Solids Handling and Nutrient Reduction infrastructure upgrades at Water Pollution Control (WPC).
- City was selected to submit a full application to the EPA’s WIFIA program for a low-interest loan, up to $218M, for Phase I and II of WPC upgrades. This financing option is expected to lower overall costs for the project by reducing long-term interest payments.
- Completed installation of Tuma Park bio-reactor, which filters and cleans farm drainage on City land before making its way into our watershed.
- WPC achieved 99.97 percent regulatory compliance to become eligible for a NACWA Silver Award in 2020.
- Iowa DNR approved City’s nutrient reduction registry concept, allowing further public-private partnerships to enhance efforts in our watershed.
- The first annual report for the iGreenCR Action Plan, the City’s municipal sustainability plan, was released.
- Community Climate Action Plan engagement and planning process is underway.
- Provided support and funding for the ConnectCR project that will connect a renovated Cedar Lake to Mt. Trashmore.
- Council addressed all seven demands of local Advocated for Social Justice, including working closely with ASJ and the community to establish a Citizen Review Board.
- ADA improvements 2020 totals: $3.5M + for Parks/Golf Site improvements; $3.5M for curb ramps; $330,000 for facilities.
- Alliant Energy and the City of Cedar Rapids announced a 12-year naming rights agreement for the city-owned downtown hotel, convention center and arena complex, now named Alliant Energy PowerHouse.
- ADA improvement totals to date (2016-2021) - $37 M allocated for all ADA improvements projects (money spent or budgeted through FY21): $17M for curb ramps; $13M for Parks and Recreation facilities & sites; $7M for city-owned facilities, parking ramps, and skywalks.
- Continued focus on a variety of new housing options, including single family and affordable.
- Develop plan to increase river recreation opportunities that complement our flood protection system.
- Create a Mayor’s Seniors council, similar to the Youth Council, to meet regularly with seniors about important issues and to keep them up to date on city actions.
- Support ReLeaf Cedar Rapids effort to ensure successful plan to replant trees throughout our community.
- Support continued work on Connect CR.
- Complete development of the Community Climate Action Plan.
- Develop additional ways to connect with citizens.
- Complete implementation of the City’s Citizen Review Board and support Gun Violence Initiative efforts.
- Small business recovery assistance.
- Construction of the next phase of Hughes Park will take place this year. This will include a primary trail, outdoor classroom, birding station, nature-themed climber, sculpture and open pavilion. Over $430,000 in funding from grants, donations, and City CIP funding will complete the second phase of this park.
- Mini Pines, a miniature golf course built next to Twin Pines Golf Course, is expected to open this spring. The 18-hole lighted course loops to a pond that includes a nine-foot waterfall with water play incorporated into four holes. The facility will include opportunities for social media photos, parties, and educational information about plantings throughout the course.
Awards & Rankings
Cedar Rapids ranks 14th Best Run City in America in 2020.
Cedar Rapids ranked the #2 Best City to Start from Scratch in 2020.
Awarded the 2020 Most Caring City in Iowa.
Business Insider named Cedar Rapids #16 in the top American cities to live in after the pandemic.
Cedar Rapids Named #2 Most Recession-Resistant City 2020.
Cedar Rapids was named a 'mini megacity to watch' 2020.
Cedar Rapids named one of the best places to relocate according to a 2020 Livability.com article 6 Reasons to Leave the Big City - and Where to Live Instead.
Cedar Rapids named #38 in the ranking of Safest Cities in America 2021.
Cedar Rapids ranks #34 of Cities with the Most Affordable Homes in the US for 2020.
Thank you for taking the time to review the Cedar Rapids State of the City address and information. To submit questions to the Mayor regarding any City of Cedar Rapids related topic, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about League of Women Voters of Linn County or make a donation, visit lwvlinncounty.org.