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New Program Aims To Make Iowa City Ped Mall More Inviting

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IOWA CITY, Iowa - A new program in Iowa City is aiming to make downtown a more inviting place for both residents and visitors. Monday marked the first day of the city's Downtown Ambassador Program, which makes a handful of city workers into area ambassadors.

"We've just sort of recreated their position to add that friendliness or service with a smile to their job that they've been performing for years and years," said Mike Moran, director of the city's parks and recreation department, which is helping to oversee the initiative.

The central business district's maintenance crews began wearing gold shirts with the word "ambassador" printed across the back on Monday. Eventually city parking crews will also begin wearing the shirts, putting up to 25 ambassadors in downtown.

"Do you see trash that needs to be picked up? Pick it up on your way by. Before we may have been focused on parking operations, now it's more of a broad looking at the whole downtown effort as you're going through downtown," said Chris O'Brien, Iowa City's transportation director.

The program has strong support from city's downtown district, which was a big backer in putting a full-time police officer on the pedestrian mall earlier this year.

"The more people feel good and that there is a lot of presence on the street and it's a friendly presence, that makes people feel comfortable," said Nancy Bird, executive director of the downtown district.

The ambassadors can help give directions or recommend a good place to eat lunch, Moran said.

"We get all kinds of questions working down here, we just try to help where we can," said Sheri Thomas, downtown maintenance supervisor. "Now we're going to be more visible."

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