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Riverfront plans include park, affordable housing

BY KATIE HEINE | JANUARY 28, 2011 7:10 AM

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The proposed renewal of the Riverfront Crossings District will likely feature a recreational park with bike trails, water access, and open space that could be used for outdoor concerts or other events.

Other plans include a revamping of the Gilbert Street corridor, implementing a light-rail system, and creating an array of affordable housing.

Iowa City residents discussed these and other possibilities Thursday night at an open house at the Iowa City Public Library, 123 S. Linn St.

The redevelopment of Riverfront Crossings — a neighborhood between Burlington Street and Highway 6 and Gilbert Court and the Iowa River — became needed after the 2008 floods caused extensive damage in the area.

Although one of the goals of the proposed park will be to help manage future flooding, the recreational features were popular feature among the crowd.

Iowa City resident Carol Spaziani said she was pleased to see the plans include easy access to the river.

“This seems to be the first civic attempt to utilize the waterfront area,” she said. “It’s like we pretend it’s not there, so I am very happy with these plans.”



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Resident Harriet Woodford agreed.

“I loved all that green space,” said Woodford, an owner of the Leaf Kitchen, 301 Kirkwood Ave. She especially endorsed the innovative tools to manage the effects of flooding; her business just missed the flood of 2008.

Doug Bisson, community planning manager for HDR Inc., one of the consulting firms involved with the development, said creating the park would provide opportunities for further development.

But the first part of the project involves knocking down the city’s north wastewater-treatment plant, which will cost $63 million from various city funds.

“Decommissioning the wastewater-treatment plant will act as the catalyst to rebuild the area,” said Karen Howard, a city planner. “Who really wants to live next to a wastewater-treatment plant?”

Local officials, who had been looking to a train depot for the proposed Chicago-Iowa City rail line as a catalyst for development in the area, said they would move forward even if Gov. Terry Branstaddoesn’t fund the train, as he indicated this week.

“Ideally, a passenger rail would be a boost, but the area would still function without it,” said Robert Miklo, senior planner with Iowa City.

David Doyle, the EPA consultant involved with the planning and designing of the area, agreed. The current plan doesn’t rely on the railway to provide funding.

Jeff Davidson, the director Iowa City’s Planning and Development Department, said the plans show the area’s potential.

“Think of this as not what is but what can be,” he said.

Davidson said the flood created great opportunities for an area already in need of assistance.

“Don’t let a good disaster go to waste,” he said.


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