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Final public feedback meeting for streetscape held Tuesday

BY REBECCA MORIN | NOVEMBER 20, 2013 5:00 AM

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Iowa City officials are one step closer to giving new life to downtown.

In a meeting at the Sheraton Hotel, 210 S. Dubuque St., on Tuesday for the final of three public-feedback sessions, Iowa City officials and development consultants gathered their last round of information to present the community’s top priorities to the Iowa City City Council.

“We’ll get the public feedback and combine it with the feedback from the online forums,” said Geoff Fruin, the assistant to the city manager. “We’ll then share with the project and with the community, then digest the feedback to work with a design for the final recommendation.”

Fruin said the final plan will most likely go to the City Council in February 2014, and construction should start the same year. Larger projects may take two to three years. The cost will be distributed based on the importance of necessary improvements needed for the streetscape and are currently not estimations on the cost of the project.

One of the main responses the city and designers received dealt with bicycle accommodations and lighting, especially through feedback from the University of Iowa, Fruin said.

“Some priorities have included enhancing bike accommodations, and light has been a big priority for UISG,” Fruin said. “They want the city to enhance the lighting to make downtown safer and more inviting.”

Not only did the university give feedback on more lighting, downtown businesses have also echoed the same sentiment.

“A lot of people are especially excited about lighting,” said Nancy Bird, the executive director of the Downtown District. “The Ped Mall is already a vibrant location, but the subtle changes like lights and signage can help make a big impact in a short time.”

City officials considered 18 different landscaping firms before deciding on Genus, based in Des Moines, and StudioINSITE, based in Denver.

Dennis Rubba, principal founder of StudioINSITE, said the group worked on Iowa City’s strengths to create a design to help better accentuate downtown and made lighting a key focus.

“We’re looking at all parts to help create an identity for the Downtown District,” Rubba said. “Light fixtures tie downtown together with recognizable elements so everything feels like one design.”

Regardless of the final design plans, some downtown business owners are excited to see what improvements the city makes.

“I think anything they do will be beneficial,” said George Etre, the owner of Takanami, 219 Iowa Ave., and Formosa, 221 E. College St. “An increase in lighting and the layout and design of the Ped Mall are great for small businesses.”

City Councilor Terry Dickens said he hopes the improvements downtown happen as quickly as possible; they will tentatively start in spring.

“Overall, we’re not really changing the downtown, we’re just enhancing,” Dickens said. “It isn’t just the downtown, though, it’s near the North Side, too. It also needs a little love and care.”


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