Downtown & Riverfront Crossings Master Plan
City Council of Iowa City adopts Riverfront Crossings District Master Plan
The City Council voted unanimously to adopt the Downtown Riverfront Crossings District Master Plan in January. Council’s vote was a significant step toward the Plan’s implementation, even though it may take years for the changes envisioned in the Plan to occur.
The Plan highlights development possibilities for the neighborhood south of downtown Iowa City and along both sides of the Iowa River, areas hit hard by flooding in 2008. The Plan grew out of post-flood recovery efforts.
The Plan details new opportunities for housing, business, recreation, transportation improvements, arts and entertainment. Some key features include mixed-use and pedestrian-oriented development, local and regional rail service, an artists’ district with live-work space and galleries, and a landscaped promenade linking downtown to a riverfront park, which would replace the flood-damaged North Wastewater Treatment Plant.
The next steps involve drafting a form-based code for the District, a detailed traffic study and parking policy decisions, historic preservation efforts, creation of an urban renewal district, formulating strategies to help existing business to stay in the area, and plans for storm water, parks, streetscape, and habitat restoration for the Iowa River and Ralston Creek.
BEFORE: West Riverfront, at intersection of Benton Street and Riverside Drive
AFTER (proposed): West Riverfront, at intersection of Benton Street and Riverside Drive
The adopted plan, which is based on public input from an extensive series of community meetings, workshops, interviews, and focus groups between community members, City planners, and the urban design consultant, reflects the community's interest in preserving and strengthening what is best about Downtown Iowa City while identifying opportunities for creating sustainable urban neighborhoods on both sides of the Iowa River. The plan proposes neighborhoods where residents can easily walk, bike, or ride the bus to work, enjoy new recreational opportunities along the Iowa River, and experience the energy of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Downtown Iowa City.
The Riverfront Crossings District, which is roughly bordered by Burlington Street on the north, Highway 6 on the south, Gilbert Street on the east, and Riverside Drive on the west, was heavily impacted by the 2008 floods. Ideas for improving the area were initiated the following year as part of a combined flood mitigation - redevelopment effort that would create new opportunities for business, housing, arts, and culture close to Downtown, while minimizing damage from future flooding. One of the central proposals of the plan calls for converting the flood-prone site of one of the City's wastewater treatment plants, located at 1000 S. Clinton Street, to a riverfront park.
Envision Riverfront Crossings - a new neighborhood just south of downtown featuring a waterfront park with walking and biking trails, access to the Iowa River for boating and fishing, a variety of housing options near shopping, restaurants, jobs, a state-of-the-art recital hall and recreational facilities, just a short walk to Downtown Iowa City and the University of Iowa campus.
Riverfront Crossings is well-situated for redevelopment due to its accessible location and budding potential for private investment. The district is adjacent to the downtown and the Iowa River, proximate to major employers, well served by public transportation, and intersected by a regional trail network, arterial streets and two rail lines. The University of Iowa is investing in the area, through the newly constructed recreation center and the planned re-location of the UI School of Music and Clapp Recital Hall. Johnson County recently expanded their offices and opened a new facility in the heart of the district. The wastewater treatment plant in the southwest portion of the district is slated to be removed and the area transformed into a riverfront park, which will be designed to better absorb flood waters from both Ralston Creek and the Iowa River and include trails, boat access, beautiful river views and other amenities that would attract private residential and/or commercial development to park-side properties.
In 2009, as a part of post-flood recovery efforts, the City recieved a grant of technical assistance through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Smart Growth Assistance Program. The City of Iowa City worked with EPA representatives and private planning consultants to survey the neighborhood, interview property and business owners and other stakeholders, and conduct several public input sessions. Through this process, the EPA and their planning consultants compiled the research and public input, from which they drafted a number of policy recommendations relating to future economic development potential, changes to land use and urban form, and enhancements to transportation options for the area.(See sidebar to download copies of these 2009 policy recommendations).
To build on this effort and further refine plans for the area, the City competed for and was one of only five cities in the nation to receive a grant from the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, a joint initiative of the EPA, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). This grant provides technical assistance to create a more detailed plan for a sub-area of Riverfront Crossings, which includes areas along South Gilbert Street, Ralston Creek, the Iowa River, and the site of the City's North Wastewater Treatment Plant on Kirkwood Avenue.
On October 4, 2011, the City Council adopted the first phase of the Riverfront Crossings Plan, which focuses on the eastside riverfront and the Gilbert Street corridor from Kirkwood Avenue south to Highway 6. In January 2013, a plan for the rest of Riverfront Crossings, including the area along Riverside Drive on the west side of the River, the area directly south of Burlington Street, the area around the historic rail depot, and for the Gilbert Street corridor from Kirkwood Avenue north to Burlington Street. The adopted Riverfront Crossings Plan will provide guidance for development and redevelopment in Riverfront Crossings and establish a framework for development of zoning and economic development tools that will spur private investment in the area.
|The flood-prone wastewater treatment plant and surrounding areas along Gilbert Street and Kirkwood Avenue could be transformed into a new neighborhood with a mix of residential and commercial uses and a new waterfront park along the Iowa River.|