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Downtown & Riverfront Crossings Master Plan


Riverfront Crossings is bordered roughly by Riverside Drive to the west, Gilbert Street to the east, Highway 6 to the south, and Burlington Street to the north.


Riverfront Crossings Master Plan

Adopted form-based zoning code

2010 Partnership for Sustainable Communities Grant

2011 Riverfront Crossings Subarea Plan (107 MB)

Riverfront Crossings District Presentation (from 1/27)

2009 Smart Growth Assistance Grant -
Policy Recommendations

Development Policy Options

Market Conditions in the Riverfront Crossings District

Transportation Policy Options

Additional Information

Accessing and Exploring our River

UNESCO City of Literature

Concept plans for Riverfront Crossings Park and Iowa River improvements unveiled at community planning event

A crowd of about 150 people attended the community planning event to review and discuss concepts for improvements to the Iowa River and plans for the new riverfront park that will take shape over the next several years in the Riverfront Crossings District once the City’s North Wastewater Treatment Plant is demolished and cleared from the site.

Draft Master Plan Concept presented at Jan. 28 community meeting

Other concepts displayed at the Jan. 28 meeting

Jan. 28 Community Planning meeting Powerpoint presentation

Several over-arching themes emerged from the public input. These include:

  • Promote better environmental stewardship of our urban waters, in this case the Iowa River and Ralston Creek;
  • Increase public safety by mitigating the drowning hazard created by the Burlington Street dam;
  • Improve public access to the Iowa River and Ralston Creek through enhanced trail connections, boardwalks, creek crossings, river overlooks, and by providing new opportunities to get down to the water for fishing, boating and other activities;
  • Provide a variety of active and passive recreational opportunities for all seasons;
  • Transform the land from impervious industrial hardscape into a regenerative and flood-resilient riverfront greenspace with a focus on native trees and landscapes, improved riparian corridors, wetlands, natural river and stream bank restoration, open greens, gardens and plazas that will invite quiet contemplation, nature play, education, community gathering, festivals and events;
  • Include features, elements and programming in the park that celebrate Iowa City as a “river town” and as a center for literature, art and culture; and
  • Consider the park a “changeable canvas” for environmental education, recreation and community events, celebrations and programs that respond to current and future needs and desires of the community as the new Riverfront Crossings neighborhood grows around it.

Consultants and City staff will be refining the master plan concepts and developing goals and objectives for the new park based on public feedback. The master plan will be presented to and reviewed by the Parks and Recreation Commission at their Wednesday, May 13 meeting. The first phase of the park is expected to be completed by the end of 2016, which at a minimum will include natural stream corridor improvements along Ralston Creek, construction of wetlands in the southern portion of the park and Iowa River Corridor Trail connections.

This planning effort has been funded in part by grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Iowa Great Places and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

For more information, contact Karen Howard at 319-356-5251 or karen-howard@iowa-city.org

City Council adopts form-based zoning code for Riverfront Crossings

On June 3, 2014, the City Council adopted the form-based zoning code for the Riverfront Crossings District. The code is intended to facilitate redevelopment in the Riverfront Crossings District in a manner that is consistent with the Downtown and Riverfront Crossings Master Plan. For more information, contact Karen Howard or Robert Miklo at Karen-howard@iowa-city.org or bob-miklo@iowa-city.org.

Download the form-based zoning code

City Council of Iowa City adopts Riverfront Crossings District Master Plan

“In January 2013, the City Council adopted the Downtown and Riverfront Crossings District Master Plan. Adoption of the plan was a significant step toward revitalization of the areas south of Downtown and on both sides of the Iowa River, including areas hit hard by the 2008 flood. 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 urban design consultants, 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 in proximity to Downtown and the University of Iowa campus. 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 or the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Downtown Iowa City.

BEFORE: West Riverfront, at intersection of Benton Street and Riverside Drive

AFTER (proposed): West Riverfront, at intersection of Benton Street and Riverside Drive

View the Riverfront Crossings Master Plan
Warning: This document exceeds 19MB in size and may take a while to download.

Please email your comments to bob-miklo@iowa-city.org or karen-howard@iowa-city.org.


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.


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