City unveils streetscape plan


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City officials released a final draft on Thursday of plans for the Iowa City downtown streetscape project, which will go before the Iowa City City Council in the coming weeks.

“The goal of this plan is not to focus on big, new projects but to make sure we’re still in the 21st century,” said Jeff Davidson, the city’s director of planning and community development. “We need to address things like taking out items such as pay phones and make Wi-Fi available throughout downtown.”

The big points of interest on the downtown streetscape plan involve looking above and below ground to assess factors needing attention and make necessary adjustments.

“Updates will be to find improvements to electric capacity, the Pedestrian Mall, landscaping, lighting, and street treatments,” said Nancy Bird, the executive director of the Iowa City downtown district.

This winter’s frigid temperatures took a hefty toll on the city’s water and sewer mains. The belowground assessment will determine what needs to be replaced or repaired.

The above-ground updates will address issues such as enhancing the Ped Mall and increasing accessibility, as well as road maintenance.   

“The plan itself is strong,” said Geoff Fruin, the assistant to the city manager. “The part the City Council is going to address will be which projects should be funded now, and which ones should be funded later.”

For the street treatments, the issues placed forth will be to improve street lighting, add bike paths to major streets such as Clinton and Gilbert, and repair damaged streets.

“We need to do further traffic studies and assess how people use the area in order to determine feasibility,” Fruin said.

As for the Pedestrian Mall, some of the major updates include a proposed permanent stage, lighting for the Weather Dance Fountain, story wall detailing, additional community seating, an art wall with LED video, and improved landscaping throughout the area.

The permanent stage would align with the fountain and will be a light, modern structure with a solid canopy above to protect from rain and provide shade. The stage would see heavy use throughout the summer months. The exact size and dimensions will be refined during design phases.

The Weather Dance Fountain lighting project will incorporate color into the fountain, and the story wall will display historic events of Iowa City throughout the Ped Mall.

The new community table will provide shaded seating for patrons who are working outdoors, people watching, or simply observing the artwork.  

The LED video story wall is meant for patrons to observe public video art or movies. The location would be adjacent to FilmScene.

The costs for the projects will vary.

“No projects are set in stone as of now,” Fruin said. “The plan is meant for the next 10 to 15 years and is simply a vision for the future. Some projects could cost as little as a few hundred dollars and some could cost a few million.”

The City Council will go over the final packet in upcoming weeks and review the plans at its March 4 meeting.

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