Iowa City Receives Downtown Streetscape Plan

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Downtown Iowa City would see significant renovations over the next decade – including new lighting, traffic changes, bike-friendly features and infrastructure upgrades – under a plan presented to the City Council Tuesday night.

City and downtown officials have worked for the past year with Genus Landscape Architects out of Des Moines on a streetscape plan for 16 blocks of downtown and in the nearby Northside Marketplace area.

The 165-page report explores existing conditions, public input, possible projects and implementation.

"I would describe this as a fantastic product," Mayor Matt Hayek said. "It's thoughtful. It's comprehensive. And it's ambitious."

It's also, he cautioned, an aspirational document, and not every idea in it will come to fruition.

For streets, the plan contemplates changes in traffic flows, the addition of bicycle lanes, lighting, archways and utility upgrades.

The Pedestrian Mall also is a major focus. Brett Douglas of Genus Landscape Architects said the Pedestrian Mall already does a lot right, so the idea is to make the most of what is there now.

"It really became a process about selective editing," he said.

The plan identifies $3 million for Pedestrian Mall improvements in 2015, including the renovation of Black Hawk Mini Park, updated lighting, enhanced plantings and more.

The city budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1 has about $1 million for projects that could get the plan started, including resurfacing of the Pedestrian Mall playground, covered bicycle parking, new recycling stations, sidewalk repair and studies for future work.

The plan is intended to have a shelf life of 10 to 15 years, said Geoff Fruin, assistant to the city manager. Several projects will be high priorities in the next few years because of either deteriorating infrastructure or strong support from the public, he said.

City Council members Jim Throgmorton and Kingsley Botchway II said the city needs to be sure not to spend too much energy and money on the downtown at the expense of other parts of the city.

In his introduction to the plan, Fruin cited streetscape projects that have occurred elsewhere in town.
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