Iowa City launches Downtown Ambassador Program


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As officials push new initiatives to aesthetically improve downtown, some in Iowa City say a new program will provide resources for visitors and residents in the area.

The city of Iowa City, in collaboration with the Downtown District, has launched a Downtown Ambassador Program, which will allow visitors and residents to ask questions of designated city workers who will offer directions and information and help enforce policies within the area.

“The program takes existing staff and expands their role to more of a customer-service role,“ said Geoff Fruin, the assistant to the city manager. “We are trying to build upon the positive services and initiatives and what they are doing to provide a clean and safe environment.”

The program started Monday, and it will consist of approximately 25 “ambassadors” from various city departments including the Central Business District maintenance crews and staff from the Parking Division.

The staff members will wear gold T-shirts with the word “Ambassador” printed on the back.

An ambassador program was established in the Des Moines area called Block by Block; however, that program differs from Iowa City’s, said Nancy Bird, the Downtown District executive director.

“The program in Des Moines has hired security officers, and it is just a different kind of program from what we are establishing,” she said.

The ambassadors will be available throughout the day. Each ambassador will have different shifts, and more workers will be primarily available during the early morning and afternoon.

The wages for the ambassadors range from $15.71 to $20.83 per hour depending on the responsibilities and years of service.

“It will clearly build on what the workers already do, they will not only clean but will also create a welcoming environment and be more approachable to people,” Fruin said.

Along with the ambassadors, Iowa City downtown police Officer David Schwindt will also work closely with the ambassadors and the businesses downtown.

The Downtown District will provide an orientation for ambassadors to explore different ways to work with downtown businesses, as well as how to work together with city employees.

Although the program only has hired employees, downtown officials hope to include volunteers as part of the program.

“We want to see if the program gets off first, but we hope to get a couple of local citizens who will volunteer,” Bird said. “They could be a big resource, like a walking concierge.”

Officials hope the program will create a closer sense of community within the city.

“I think more people will ask questions about the city and the area, and they will have a better spirit of ownership of Iowa City,” Parks and Recreation Director Mike Moran said.

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