Facelift planned for Iowa City's Ped Mall - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Facelift planned for Iowa City's Ped Mall

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) -

One city in eastern Iowa plans to spend millions revamping one of its most iconic destinations.

On Tuesday, the Iowa City City Council approved plans to reconstruct the mall, which would cost close to $6.8 million. Funding for the project would come from general obligation bonds.

The reconstruction will have an impact.  When it comes to what makes Iowa City, people often think about the Ped Mall.

"The pedestrian mall is the heart of the Iowa City community. It's the center of our commercial area, it's the living room, so to speak. We have a lot of student traffic that come through and all of our visitors congregate here, so it's really the heartbeat of the community," Nancy Bird, Executive Director of the Iowa City Downtown District, said.

The city said it's now due for a facelift after it was constructed in the late 1970's. The bulk of the construction would come under visitors' feet, with a full pavement resurfacing of the clay bricks, plus improving the utilities underneath it, Iowa City Senior Civil Engineer, Scott Sovers, said.

Bricks visibly appear worn down and have started to break apart in places.

"Just to kind of revitalize it. As you can see, the pavement has started to deteriorate. We're starting to get some heaving. To redo the surfacing and, while we're redoing that, it just makes since to redo the utilities and upgrade the amenities," Sovers said.

It's not solely about aesthetics, however, it also comes down to a safety issue.

"The existing bricks right now are clay which causes some issues during rains and winter with snow and ice, they get very slick. So, we are replacing those with new concrete pavers which have a friction factor to the surface of them, so they won't be as slick," Sovers said. "There will be brick and, underneath the brick, there will be a concrete base.  So, that will keep it from heaving in the winter time."

New amenities include new lighting and furnishings, such as new benches, tables and chairs. It would also upgrade and expand current facilities. The plan calls for a permanent stage canopy at the fountain where events and concerts are commonly held.

"The stage is something I think that the whole community sees value in, providing a real infrastructure there that can help support the events that are happening downtown already, and grow them to the next level," Bird said. "Providing an amphitheater-type of setting to the stage I think will make the experience better."

A shade structure would also be placed at the Black Hawk Mini Park. Bird believes the changes wouldn't affect the current charm of the Ped Mall.

"They're doing what they can to make sure the real essence of the Pedestrian Mall stays the same," she said.

Construction is expected to begin in April. It'll be done in two phases. The first phase will target the area from the stage and fountains towards Washington Street. The second phase will start in 2019 and will focus on the areas near Clinton Street and Linn Street.

Bird said all businesses will be able to continue to operate during the construction and they'll work to ensure businesses aren't affected by it.

More information about the project can be found here.

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