Iowa City Looks for Redesigned Downtown Streetscape

By Gregg Hennigan, Reporter

IOWA CITY – The streets of downtown Iowa City will be getting a new look, but how much they change will depend on public input and the City Council.

The city is working with a consultant, Genus Landscape Architects in Des Moines, to come up with streetscape redesigns for the downtown, Pedestrian Mall and the Northside Marketplace.

Preliminary ideas include changes to traffic and parking patterns, lighting, public seating, plant life, use of alleys and more.

Nancy Bird, executive director of the Iowa City Downtown District, said the project will make the area "pop."

"This will really bring some life back to the streets, some color," she said.

An open house will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Sept. 18 at the Sheraton Iowa City Hotel, 210 S. Dubuque St., to give the public a chance to view drawings, meet with city officials and the consultants and make comments.

Another public meeting is likely before a proposal goes to the City Council in January, said Geoff Fruin, assistant to the city manager.

Suggestions already have been taken at a website, www.InspireDowntownIC.com.

The city asked Genus Landscape Architects for three levels of improvements: one mild, one aggressive and one middle of the road, Fruin said. Aggressive would include changing lighting and street material, he said.

A drawing released Wednesday looks north on Clinton Street from Washington Street. It shows a raised median with planters, new streetlights and a different material on the street surface to distinguish the intersection.

Fruin said there will be a number of drawings at the open house of possible concepts.

"From the public, we really want to know 1) what do you think of these and 2) what are the priority areas we need to focus on?" he said.

Part of the argument for a redesigned streetscape is that many of the features are nearing the end of their life cycles at 15 to 20 years of age, he said.

He also said less visible infrastructure, such as underground utilities, need to be replaced and the city wants to coordinate the work so the streets and sidewalks are not torn up more than once.

Bird said the appearance of a street and other public spaces can give a boost to businesses, and her organization's members are excited. Lighting and signs to help people find their way around are among their biggest interests, she said.

"There's some really subtle design features that can make a big difference."

Ultimately, the City Council will decide how aggressive to be with the project, Fruin said. Staff will take to the council implementation strategies, he said, and different features would likely be included in the city budget over multiple years.
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