The plan to create a regional medical district in Cedar Rapids is starting to take on a more solid shape.
MedQuarter stakeholders introduced ideas for potential land use, streetscape designs, pedestrian amenities and branding opportunities for the 55-block district to the community on Thursday night at UnityPoint Health- St. Luke’s Hospital.
The MedQuarter was designed to promote economic development, improve the quality of health care and contribute to the growth of Cedar Rapids, said Scott Freres, a principal with the Lakota Group, a Chicago-based urban planning and design company, during a 15-minute presentation outlining the project’s goals.
“How do we get young doctors here?” Freres said. “What do we have that people want?”
Possible ideas for the MedQuarter include building a new hotel for patients and their families, adding bike lanes, employee housing and a large park.
Branding is another important component, Freres said. Adding banners, signs, kiosks and mile makers will help direct people as well as create a strong image for the district.
Paving a large “pedestrian oriented street” through the district and calling it “Wellness Way,” “MedQuarter Mile,” or “Health Walk,” also could help in this regard, he said.
Freres recalled a recent trip to Houston where he visited the medical district and saw light rail, superior landscaping and signs.
“(The medical district) put Houston on the map on an international basis — it’s brand was so strong,” Freres said.
Ted Townsend, president and CEO of St. Luke’s Hospital, said it’s important to have discussions about the district early on, when parties involved can be flexible.
“We need to have the debate ahead of the (master) plan so we can make the necessary changes,” Townsend said.
Those interested in submitting ideas and critiques about the MedQuarter plan can do so through its website, www.crmedicaldistrict.com.
The Lakota Group is aiming to release the master plan, which will include a five-year strategic plan, goals and a vision for the MedQuarter, by early 2014. The cost of the plan will be about $225,000.