Two Corridor Cities Make Best Places to Live List

The MedQuarter | September 18th, 2019

Two Corridor cities have made’s annual 100 Best Places to Live in America list.

Iowa City topped the list at No. 19, while Cedar Rapids ranked No. 83. Ames and Des Moines also made the list, coming it at No. 35 and No. 62, respectively.

Iowa City was cited for its “well-rounded” nature, including activities for sports fans and literary types, and ultra-low unemployment rate. Cedar Rapids earned its nod thanks to reasonable home prices and short commutes.

‘We’re excited to announce this year’s list of the 100 best places to live in America, which, for the first time, includes neighborhoods as well as cities,” said Shaina Mishkin, the writer at who oversaw the project, in a news release. “The average American will move nearly a dozen times during his or her lifetime. Our Best Places to Live franchise gives individuals and families the guidance they need to make informed decisions about where they will have the best living experience across the country.”

The list, first published more than 30 years ago, takes into account each city’s economic health, cost of living, diversity, public education, income, crime, ease of living and amenities, among other data points.

Read more at is published by Des Moines-based Meredith Corp.

Republished from the Corridor Business Journal.

MedQuarter Celebrates Accomplishments Over the Last Eight Years

The MedQuarter | September 11th, 2019

Of the three self-supported municipal improvement districts (or SSMIDs, as we often refer to them) in Cedar Rapids, the MedQuarter was the second to be formed. The Downtown SSMID was formed in 1986 and the Czech Village/New Bohemia SSMID in 2015. The Cedar Rapids City Council officially approved the establishment of the Medical SSMID in September 2011.

The MedQuarter Regional Medical District is celebrating its eighth anniversary with the final event in their Summer in the Q event series on Thursday, September 19 with the Celebr8tory Lunch in the MedQ Park on 3rd at 800 3rd Avenue SE. Starting at 11 a.m., the District will give away 100 free lunches, packed in a reusable MedQ lunch bag. No registration required – lunches are first come, first served.

Looking back on the first eight years, there’s a lot to be proud of in the MedQ. Once established, the Medical SSMID Commission focused its time and resources on strategic planning and District awareness – which would lay the groundwork for their efforts. Major accomplishments to date include the approval and initiation of a Master Development Plan; taking a leadership role in the formation of a Comprehensive Signage and Wayfinding Plan for Cedar Rapids; renovation of 10th Street SE from 4th to 8th Avenues; and the approval of a Master Parkway Improvement Plan just last year. Find more district improvement and community development highlights and milestones below!

In the coming years the MedQuarter’s leaders will continue to pursue the Master Development Plan’s strategic initiatives through District improvement, seeking new opportunities for economic development, and implementing programs that enhance the amenities available for all who work in and visit the District. All three of the SSMID Districts in Cedar Rapids play a critical role in the vibrancy of our community. While each District is unique, the combined assets and continued improvement of Downtown, MedQuarter and Czech Village/New Bohemia make Cedar Rapids a great place to be.

Community Gathers to Discuss Child Care Shortage & Determine Solutions

The MedQuarter | September 11th, 2019

There’s a child care shortage in Iowa. On average, one in two children go without access to affordable, quality child care. Our state has lost 42% of its child care businesses over the past five years. Child care is a family issue, a workforce issue and a community issue. Collaborative efforts are necessary to make a difference. Members of the community from across Linn County came together recently for a conversation regarding solutions for this issue.

In 2015, Iowa Women’s Foundation embarked on a state-wide tour to find out why women and girls in Iowa are struggling and what barriers are affecting their success. In nine of 18 communities visited, lack of access to affordable, quality child care was identified as the number one priority.

Business leaders, daycare providers, higher education professionals, members of rural communities, elected officials, K-12 educators, health care professionals and small business owners from across Linn County gathered last month to start a community conversation on solutions to help solve the child care shortage. The event was presented by the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, Iowa Women’s Foundation and Linn County Early Childhood Iowa.

The goal of the workshop was for participants to become familiar with state and local data on child care challenges, discuss solutions to figure out which are feasible to implement here, and determine next steps. Solutions were discussed and five rose to the top of the priority list:

  • Business + Child Care: increase the number of businesses that establish employer-provided, subsized, or co-op child care for employees
  • Build New and Expand Existing Child Care Centers
  • Child Care Entrepreneurs: support and incentivize programs that maintain current child care entrepreneurs and help more people become entrepreneurs by starting an in-home registered child care business or opening a child care center
  • Establishing Before and After School Programs
    Child Care for 2nd and 3rd Shift Workers: address the child care needs of employees outside of the 9 a.m. -5 p.m. hours.

The Economic Alliance’s mission is to drive economic, workforce and population growth strategies and to help businesses succeed. Access to quality, affordable child care makes our region and employers more attractive to potential residents, it means businesses have higher employee retention, and employees are more productive when they can be on time and present at work. We will be intimately involved in next steps of the Business and Child Care solution, and likely influential in the other four solutions as well.


Cedar Rapids MedQuarter Moves Forward on Child Care Facility Feasibility Study

Like many other employers in ICR Iowa, employers in the MedQuarter Regional Medical District recognize the impact that lack of access to quality and affordable child care can have on employee recruitment and retention. There are hundreds of qualified health care workers not seeking work in order to stay at home with their children, and others who leave employment when their child care arrangements unravel. Several of the large employers in the District have examined possible ways they could assist their employees with child care through on-site providers, expense sharing and more, but the challenges and expenses are too great for any one employer to take on individually. After reviewing the issue, and learning of other efforts in other communities, the MedQuarter decided to consider addressing the issue as a District.

Working with the City of Cedar Rapids, the MedQuarter released a Request For Proposals for qualified consulting firms to complete a feasibility study for a District child care center. The study will assess the demand for child care services for both health care workers and others employed in the District, outline strategies to implement high quality child care services and minimize long term costs, among other factors.

The MedQuarter Commission selected Mills Consulting Group of Framingham, MA to conduct the feasibility study. The first step is a Child Care Needs Assessment Survey which was sent recently to MedQuarter employers to distribute to their employees. The entire feasibility study and corresponding recommendation are scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.

For more information on the MedQuarter child care feasibility study, contact MedQuarter Executive Director Phil Wasta at

More Than Just Healthcare

The MedQuarter | August 26th, 2019

Janel PeplinskiWhile healthcare is the lifeblood of the MedQuarter, there’s more to be found in this bustling 55-block district.

Just ask Janel Peplinski, an employee of Republic Abstract & Settlement LLC, one of more than 50 non-healthcare businesses in the MedQ.

“The best part about being located in the MedQ is that there are other businesses here too. It’s not just medical,” said Janel, who moved to Marion, Iowa, from North Dakota in September 2010.

Today, Janel utilizes and enjoys all the benefits the MedQ has to offer — with proximity being No. 1.

“If you have an appointment in the medical district and also are in need of the services from Republic Abstract & Settlement LLC, we are very close by,” Janel said. For example, “I’ve gone to the hospital to do a closing because the client could not leave work at the time.”

When Janel’s husband was in the hospital at Mercy and had appointments at PCI, they appreciated that his care was being met so close to her work. She was able to stop by the office while her husband was being treated.

The local restaurants and coffee shops are another perk of working in the district. For lunch, Janel can grab a bite to eat at several restaurants within walking distance.

Always Something to Do Here

Janel’s boss, Karen Smith, is an active member of the MedQ board and passes on newsletters and emails to her employees to make sure they see what is going on within the district, such as the new Summer in the Q event series.

“It’s a nice way to keep up and an excuse for us to venture out in the MedQ,” Janel said.

In fact, the MedQuarter has something fun for the whole community each month this summer. Summer events include Sunrise Yoga & Coffee in the MedQ Park on 3rd, the MedQ Mile 12-Week Walk Challenge Finale and the MedQuarter’s Celebra8tory Anniversary Lunch, all part of Summer in the Q.

Janel is currently taking part in the MedQ Mile 12-Week Walk Challenge. Participants can enter by snapping a picture of themselves walking the MedQ Mile and posting it to the MedQ Facebook page. Participants can win gift cards to MedQ restaurants and retail locations each week. Join the fun!

Cedar Rapids Named #2 on Livability’s List of 10 Best Home Base Cities

The MedQuarter | August 22nd, 2019

Cedar Rapids was named #2 on Livability’s list of the 10 Best Home Base Cities for Road Trippers. This list highlights 10 cities across the U.S. that offer travel enthusiasts something special. To identify the 10 Best Home Base Cities for Road Trippers, Livability took a look at cities with a relatively affordable cost of living, a central location with easy access to other cool cities, natural scenery and quirky roadside attractions and plenty of things to do. The cities needed to be cool, fun places to live, whether you live there for a few days, a few months or a few years. Read More

Physician-Humanitarian Shares Compassion in MedQ and Beyond

The MedQuarter | July 29th, 2019

Dr. Kashif ChaudhryDr. Kashif Chaudhry, a cardiac electrophysiologist at Mercy Medical Center and a humanitarian, was drawn to the MedQuarter Regional Medical District by a tradition of compassionate care.

Dr. Chaudhry, a native of Pakistan, joined the cardiology team at Mercy in August 2018 to treat heart rhythm disorders. He chose Mercy because of “the emphasis on compassionate patient care” and the friendly work environment.

“Mercy provides me with a great platform to grow my professional career and to serve the local community,” an important factor in his move to Cedar Rapids, he said.

When he’s not at work in Iowa, Dr. Chaudhry often can be found in other parts of the world, treating people through his work for Humanity First and Project Pacer. On medical missions to South America, for example, he installs pacemakers for people who cannot afford them.

It’s All About the Patient

Patient-centered care is important to Dr. Chaudhry, and he admires the collaboration between medical facilities in the MedQ. Dr. Chaudhry, like many providers in the MedQ, may see patients from either hospital in the district.

“The ease of sharing medical information between the various facilities makes patient care very smooth,” he said.

He’s also proud to contribute to the extraordinary quality of care here.

“The level of advanced care that is provided here is impressive for an average-sized Midwest city like Cedar Rapids,” said Dr. Chaudhry.

Finding Work-Life Balance

An award-winning writer and blogger on human rights and freedom of conscience, Dr. Chaudhry was awarded a Presidential Service Award by President Obama for his community service efforts.

So he appreciates that many businesses within the MedQ promote philanthropy and support employee participation in charitable events, such as walks and fundraisers.

“Mercy gives me the opportunity to enjoy a great life balance between work and personal time,” he said.

His leisure time is spent hiking, biking, going to the gym, reading, writing and trying new restaurants in the area. Stating “you can do so much right in the MedQuarter.”

MedQuarter Primed for More Growth in Cedar Rapids

The MedQuarter | July 17th, 2019

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) – Over the last decade, the NewBo District and downtown Cedar Rapids have experienced a boom in popularity and growth.

The district covers 55 square blocks, and it’s been an official district within Cedar Rapids since 2011.Now some people believe the next area to grow like that will be the MedQuarter Regional Medical District, also known as the MedQ, which is the area northeast of downtown, anchored by St. Luke’s Hospital, Mercy Medical Center and Physicians Clinic of Iowa (PCI).

Sitting in the MedQuarter, near St. Luke’s, is Grey’s Pub. The bar and restaurant make the most of its proximity to the hospitals and clinics, as shown in its name.

“Kind of a play off Grey’s Anatomy,” Terra Heaton, manager and partner at Grey’s Pub, said.

A big part of its clientele comes from the 6,000-plus employees who work in the district, many of them from St. Luke’s, Mercy and PCI.

“A lot of them come here for lunch,” Heaton said. “We do offer takeout, so when they have a short lunch hour, they’ll call in their orders and bring it over there.”

Phil Wasta, executive director of the MedQuarter, said its hospitals and clinics total more than 350,000 patient visits annually. He added that having so many options so close together is unique in eastern Iowa.

“Within this area, you’ve got a super high concentration of medical assets–not just two hospitals, but PCI and a lot of private clinics,” Wasta said.

As the MedQuarter continues to grow, Wasta said adding more housing could be on the horizon.

“We have talked to several developers, and we have some ideas that we would like to see happen from a housing standpoint, and a couple of which I really think have legs,” Wasta said.

Housing tastes have been changing, and an appetite for more dwellings toward the city’s center could benefit the district.

“With kind of a shift in the market, we’re seeing more interest in urban housing, and the MedQuarter’s certainly a district where we could have more urban housing,” Caleb Mason, an economic development analyst for the City of Cedar Rapids, said.

Opening more restaurants and retail could also be in the district’s future, along with a childcare center, but Wasta said the main focus is on developing what the MedQuarter does best.

Work that is going on right now could be key to making that happen, according to Mason, who pointed to the construction of a second pavilion at PCI, along with road reconstruction and beautification along 10th Street, as examples of that.

“When developers are coming and looking at areas that they want to redevelop, typically, they’re attracted to areas where they see investment already happening,” Mason said.

That’s something Grey’s Pub is happy to see happen in its neighborhood.

“I just hope that people realize how lucky really we are here in Cedar Rapids to have two amazing hospitals. We have PCI,” Heaton said. “So many things here locally to help the people in our community.”

Originally posted at

Three Sister Organizations Continue Annual Tradition of Spreading Mercy in the Cedar Rapids Community

The MedQuarter | July 11th, 2019

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (July 11, 2019) – Sister organizations Mount Mercy University, the Catherine McAuley Center and Mercy Medical Center are continuing the tradition of spreading mercy in our community.  Circle the City with Mercy is a one-day community service project with volunteers from each organization coming together on Friday, July 19, near the anniversary date marking when the Sisters of Mercy arrived in Cedar Rapids in July 1875.

Now in its second year, Circle the City with Mercy partners look for a unique community service project each year to demonstrate their ongoing commitment to the community.

This year, the three organizations will be working at several different building sites for the Wheelchair Ramp Accessibility Program (WRAP), which provides timely home access to people in need by building custom wheelchair ramps for those with limited mobility. Many WRAP clients are elderly or have a chronic illness.

“WRAP is thrilled with the number of volunteers who will give of their time to complete home access projects,” said Angie Ehle, WRAP coordinator. “Each ramp built gives an individual with limited mobility the choice to age in place, improving their quality of life and providing freedom to come and go.  WRAP is grateful for the opportunity to partner with Circle the City with Mercy.”

Sixty Circle the City with Mercy volunteers will build five wheelchair ramps from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on July 19. Prior to the building session, they will gather at 7:30 a.m. at Mercy Medical Center’s Hallagan Education Center for breakfast and a brief program honoring the Sisters of Mercy.  The builds will take place at locations in Cedar Rapids and Marion.

Questions about Circle the City with Mercy may be directed to Kelsey Steines at (319) 731-0448 or Karen Vander Sanden at (319) 558-8424. Inquiries about WRAP may be directed to Angie Ehle at (319) 369-7377 (office), (319) 270-7294 (mobile) or

Nurse Has Found her Work Home

The MedQuarter | July 3rd, 2019

Namira RomeroNamira Romero was still working in Ohio when she applied for a job in the MedQuarter Regional Medical District. She wasn’t quite sure that she wanted to move — until she had the interview.

The respect and appreciation she felt made it an easy choice. She accepted an offer from UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s and made Cedar Rapids her home in October 2015. She works as a surgical nurse in the operating room and loves it.

“Everyone is so caring,” Namira said. “I not only work with intelligent, competent staff, but also people who show me they care about me and make me feel like I am a part of their family.”

And she feels respected and appreciated.

“I feel like I matter, like I have a say in the hospital. I am on a few committees, and I always feel like I am in a safe place to give my opinion and that my opinion counts – not only in my department, but at the hospital level as well,” Namira said.

Namira also likes the diversity of people in the MedQuarter, from new college graduates to 30 years of service, from native Iowans to diverse world cultures.

“I myself am from Pakistan. There are people from other countries, and we all feel welcomed,” Namira said.

The Benefits of Working Here

She also appreciates the unique benefits of the medical district.

Namira notes that patients have a choice of hospitals and often still have the provider they want because many MedQ providers practice at both hospitals. And when a piece of equipment or product is not available, MedQ providers share.

“It is a collaborative effort. It takes each and every person of the team to get the best patient outcome,” Namira said.

The convenience of close-to-work restaurants, coffee shops and repair shops is another plus for Namira.

As is St. Luke’s employee perks program, offering discounts on lots of goods and services.

She also enjoys the gym membership and tuition reimbursement that St. Luke’s offers. Namira was even awarded a full scholarship through the St. Luke’s Foundation for classes to advance her career.

When Namira is not working, she loves spending time with her big family. She also volunteers at her children’s school and enjoys attending their numerous activities.

And that’s another perk of working in the MedQuarter. The job is family-friendly. “St. Luke’s is very flexible with my hours, and I have a good work and family life balance,” she said.

Eastern Iowa Sleep Center Moves to PCI Medical Pavilion II

The MedQuarter | July 2nd, 2019

Eastern Iowa Sleep Center (EISC) announced May 3, 2019, it will be moving to the new PCI Medical Pavilion II located at 275 10th Street, SE. The move is tentatively scheduled for January 2020. EISC, a partnership between PCI, Mercy Medical Center, and UnityPoint-St. Luke’s Hospital, and PCI’s Neurology & Sleep Medicine Clinic will co-locate on the same floor. The EISC Board is excited to bring a new level of care to patients, families, healthcare, providers and communities. Learn more at