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In the heart of Iowa City

BY BARRETT SONN | JULY 14, 2014 5:00 AM

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I’m a journalism major who lives and works 15 minutes from Northwestern University; you can see why people naturally assume I’m a Wildcat. Personally, I think that’s a pretty insulting assumption, and it takes everything I’ve got to restrain myself from knocking those inquiring people upside their inquiring heads (just kidding). When I correct them and explain that I go to the University of Iowa, the reaction is always the same.

“Ooh, they have such a nice campus.” Of course, I’m quick to agree because Iowa City really is an attractive town. We definitely take it for granted, especially the conciseness; it takes 10 to 20 minutes to walk across campus.

On the other foot, it takes 30 minutes to walk across half of Michigan State’s campus. Aside from the convenience of easy walking, our quaintly urban paradise easily captures that rare sensation of being a large university that ends up feeling relatively small. That sensation can thank a lot of things, but the city itself should get a lot of credit.

Really, there are only three things I would change about Iowa City: the bipolar weather, the river’s grotesque color, and the distance some stores such as Walmart are to downtown. Unfortunately, change is coming, and it’s not for a dollar. You may have noticed that “skyscraper” called Park@201 on the Pedestrian Mall. It is one of the first architectural hints that Iowa City is changing — and not necessarily in a good way.

For whatever reason, officials have decided they want higher-end residential and commercial buildings in the heart of the city. Apparently, that mixes well with hordes of college students who have earned the dubious — albeit disputable — title of top party school in the nation. Good thinking, people in charge.

Therefore, it should surprise nobody that there have been some adjustment issues for both Iowa City natives and the newer, more affluent residents. We all know the homeless issue, where officials decided a good place to build luxury buildings was in the same place the homeless naturally congregate. Again, that’s some good thinking, right? Totally makes sense.

Now noise is an issue as well. First reported in the Gazette, residents of Park@201 have been complaining about excessive noise in the evening. The complaints have been directly related with the Iowa City Drum Circle, whom you may have seen or heard on Tuesday nights. I think it’s actually a valid complaint, because the sound of drums is bound to be distracting, especially if you’re trying to get some work done.

But then again, can you imagine how antsy those residents must get on the weekends, especially when school starts again? They’ll be clutching their hair, wringing their hands, and calling the police all at the same time … somehow. Time will undoubtedly ease some of the problems, but bringing in affluence to Iowa City spells disaster for another, potentially more humorous, reason.

As nice and friendly as our community is, you can’t help but admit there’s an undertone of pretentiousness. We’re tired of the “nothing but cornfields” joke not-so-cleverly cracked by visitors (or people who have never visited), plus we’re immensely proud of our literary and general artistic history. I myself brag about it all the time, to the detriment of my non-Iowa social life.

As we all know, art is not exactly a financial stable industry. But we take pride in that, too, and Iowa City is fairly friendly for those of us who are a little tight in the money area. Once more and more high-end buildings and residents start coming in, we might start getting those dreaded snobs who take pride in both art and money. I mean, these are people who would actually live in a building that has “@” in the name.


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