UISG, city officials discuss downtown Iowa City improvements


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City officials and members of the University of Iowa Student Government gathered Tuesday to discuss a number of topics, including the change in policy regarding entertainment venues. Officials said the meeting was a step toward changing the downtown culture.

In a recent vote at a Feb. 19 meeting, the Iowa City City Council voted unanimously to alter certain rules in its 21-ordinance — the change means underage people may be present in certain bars after midnight, provided that the establishment meets the rules for an entertainment venue exemption.

City Councilor Rick Dobyns said that despite his prior support for the 21-ordinance, he has been waiting for a market to give underage people a chance to participate downtown.

“After the exception was made, people called me thinking I was Benedict Arnold,” Dobyns said. “I worked on the 21-ordinance. But there are places that have earned the ability to have underage people participate.”

And the meeting Tuesday evening also allowed the student government a chance to begin an involvement with the City Council.

Alec Bramel, the UISG City Council liaison, organized the meeting with hopes of creating an alliance between the two governing bodies.

“We hope to better educate student leaders on the city’s work,” Bramel said in a UISG release. “In addition, we hope to encourage and share new ideas that will make the city of Iowa City and the university a better place for citizens and students alike.”

Aside from the new ordinance, officials described aesthetic changes altering the face of downtown Iowa City.

Mayor Matt Hayek said the alterations are a step in the right direction.

“The city is pouring tons of money into refurbishing the Ped Mall. Private sectors are, too,” he said, noting that this will improve the downtown experience. “The downtown business landscape is diversifying.”

Officials from both sides also discussed city safety and on-campus housing.

Nancy Bird, the executive director of the Downtown District, said there are a number of good spaces available for new businesses downtown.

“They want to find one that sticks,” she said, noting that landlords take their time when choosing new tenants.

All landlords and businesses are independent, thus the decision of what goes downtown is ultimately up to them.

Officials said another important part of developing new businesses downtown is making sure that buildings available for rent are clean and safe.

“The buildings must have the right foundation, and we’re making sure that businesses who come through, or expanding business, want to come here,” Bird said.

Hayek said he is hopeful about the alliance between UISG and the City Council and feels that students’ opinions on the goings-on of Iowa City are equally as important as any citizen of Iowa City.

“A university sophomore is just as much a member of this community as someone who’s lived here for 30 years,” he said.

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