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Downtown and Pedestrian Mall Streetscape Plan

The Iowa City and Pedestrian Mall Streetscape Plan was drafted in 2013 and adopted by the City Council in 2014. The plan includes various components including a site assessment, synopsis of stakeholder and public input, and the general planning framework for the district. The plan is expected to guide future investments by the City of Iowa City for the next 10-15 years. The implementation of the projects contained in the report will happen over the next 10-15 years as resources permit. Questions related to the plan can be directed to Geoff Fruin, Assistant City Manager at (319) 356-5013.

Downtown and Pedestrian Mall Streetscape Plan (large file size)

Introduction and Executive Summary

Section 1 gives a brief introduction to the project, highlights the organization of the plan, and concludes with master plan goals and objectives.

Existing Conditions

Section 2 of the plan summarizes the site assessment process which included a combination of field analysis, stakeholder engagement, and review of information and mapping provided by the City of Iowa City. As part of this process, the existing wayfinding and identity elements, sidewalk cafes, context, accessibility, architectural patterns and streetscape components were reviewed. In an effort to better understand the existing infrastructure, a utility analysis examined the sanitary sewer, storm sewer, and water supply within the Study Area and considered projected demand for these utilities into the future. The information gathered during the site assessment phase informed key recommendations for each of the streets and the pedestrian mall.

Stakeholder Input

Within Section 3, the Iowa City Downtown and Pedestrian Mall Streetscape Plan Update reflects the dedicated participation and input of the project steering and technical committee and an invested public. The steering and technical committee was composed of City of Iowa City leaders, local business leaders, and representatives from the Iowa City Downtown District, Summer of the Arts (SOTA), and the University of Iowa. To ensure the resulting plan reflects the needs of the larger community, the Plan was developed with significant public input.

Streetscape Components

This section promotes a strong ensemble of high-quality materials, amenities and furnishings that reinforce a unique and positive downtown image. While certain components, such as benches or trash receptacles, will be applied consistently throughout the study area, others, such as limestone light pole bases or banners, may be recommended only along select streets to better distinguish a specific street role or function. The section addresses the following components.

  • wayfinding identity
  • lighting electrical
  • sustainability
  • transportation enhancements
  • landscape plant material
  • materials kit of parts
  • public art

Streetscape Planning

Providing an overview of each street and the key improvement recommendations that were identified for it, this section offers design narrative, street vision plans, renderings, and sections within the plan to outline how and where these recommendations should be implemented. Key planning recommendations for each street were categorized per the following.

  • Transportation Enhancements address how and where to improve vehicular, bicyclist, and pedestrian movement.
  • Lighting opportunities identify and locate the type of light(s) proposed for each street.
  • Sustainable Enhancements identify opportunities for green infrastructure strategies such as bioretention planting areas, infill trees, recycling stations, and permeable pavement systems.
  • Wayfinding and Identity elements create gateways and inform use along select streets.
  • Utility recommendations address aging infrastructure and the undergrounding of any existing overhead utility lines.
  • Other improvements such as vegetation, seating, and paving improvements are identified.

Pedestrian Mall Planning

The Pedestrian Mall is a truly unique asset that sets Iowa City apart from other cities. Its long-term success can be attributed to the mix of uses including successful restaurants, new residential properties, entertainment venues, and its adjacency to the University of Iowa.

With nearly forty years having passed since the opening of the Pedestrian Mall and the most recent improvements taking place in 1999, the Pedestrian Mall needs a ‘selective editing’ of components to continue to attract and support unique businesses, to fulfill the evolving needs of diverse user groups, and to address years of deferred maintenance.

Material presented in this section illustrates an analysis framework for existing conditions, recommendations for a new layer of secondary destination spaces across the Pedestrian Mall and overall planning suggestions to re-invigorate and update the Pedestrian Mall.


With a focus of re-aligning City policy with streetscape and pedestrian mall planning goals, Section 7 describes the City’s current sidewalk café and signage policy, the purple meter program, and maintenance-related issues and requirements.


In order to move the planning from vision to reality, the master plan report concludes with the identification and prioritization of recommended projects, as well as a cost summary for improvements associated with each street and the pedestrian mall. The prioritization of projects includes phasing recommendations for quick start [ sudden impact or critical maintenance / safety projects ], short term [ 1-3 year ] and long term projects [ 5-15 year ] to assist the City of Iowa City in fiscal planning and decision-making for the next 10-15 years.

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