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IC residents check out streetscape plans

BY ABIGAIL MEIER | SEPTEMBER 19, 2013 5:00 AM

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The Iowa City community is helping officials envision a scene change to the downtown streetscape and public spaces in hopes of creating a more cultural and unique environment.

During the second of three public meetings at the Sheraton Hotel, community members, business owners, city officials, and consultants gathered Wednesday evening in hopes to gain the public’s opinion on new architecture for the pending look of downtown spaces.

“I’m just trying to visualize everything,” said Iowa City resident Margaret Felling. “The changes that could be in store are really amazing and very pedestrian-friendly.”

At the event on Wednesday there were dozens of different posters presented with various rendering ideas and community members were invited to comment on them and place markers on their favorite ideas.

“Tonight is about showing some initial ideas, getting some feedbacks, and refining those plans for a future date,” said Geoff Fruin, the assistant to the city manager.

Fruin said the cost will be distributed based on the importance of necessary improvements needed for the streetscape. The public will decide what it wants changed, then officials will start collecting estimations and gathering the necessary funds. He said there are currently not estimations on the cost of the project.

Proposals included enhancing the corridor, adding greenery, paving entrances, accommodating bicycles, adding shelter bike parking, and upgrading accent and festive lighting.

Felling said the new additions could make a more welcoming and family-friendly downtown.
Officials are also proposing environmentally friendly infrastructure plans. A water-conserving landscape proposal would use all rainwater in the downtown area. The water would be reused through rainwater harvest and bioretention.

Robert Satter, a community member of Iowa City and former landscape architect for the original Pedestrian Mall landscaping 30 years ago, also found the additions of downtown could be a positive advancement.

“Storm water reusing is a very interesting concept,” he said. “The architecture and landscape of the new streetscapes has a design beyond the original Pedestrian Mall, but its time is due.”

Other residents at the meeting embraced different plans.

“I really like the area on Clinton Street where they want to create a more pedestrian safe crossing,” said University of Iowa graduate student Sam Sturtz. “With implementing all of these different aspects, it will build a more cohesive community to bring more people in.”

Bill Nusser, the president of the Downtown District, also said they want to create a harmony between the unique culture of Iowa City while developing it into a new and cleaner environment for families and friends to enjoy.

“We are trying to balance the Iowa City we know and love versus the Iowa City we would love to see,” Nusser said.

He said some of the improvements would be remodeling alleyways, compacting garbage cans, and establishing more comfortable walkways for everyone.

Fruin and other Iowa City officials analyzed 18 different landscaping firms before settling on Genus, based in Des Moines, and StudioINSITE, based in Denver. The firms worked together to create Wednesday’s proposals.

Brett Douglas, one of the head directors of the Genus landscaping team, said he hopes he can help create elements in Iowa City without taking away its unique characteristics.

“We are trying to use a selective editing process to build on the development of Iowa City,” Douglas said. “It’s a fun city to work with and great city for public space.”

Nancy Bird, the executive director of the Downtown District, said the information presented really helps people understand a specific framework to all of these distinct areas of Iowa City.

“People are really intrigued about the what the possibilities really are, and this is the first time people are really seeing them,” she said.


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