Iowa City Downtown Holiday Market to feature pop-up shelters

Retail event starts Nov. 24, continues for five weekends

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IOWA CITY — This year’s Downtown Holiday Market in Iowa City is going to look a little bit different from years past.

The large tent that housed vendors during the market’s first two years will be replaced this coming season with three temporary shelters to not only add artistic expression to the event, but provide a warmer shopping experience.

“These pop-up shops should make a giant statement,” said Betsy Potter, director of operations with the Iowa City Downtown District. “It’s a fantastic design.”

What’s more, rather than host retailers for a single day like previous years, the temporary shelters will have new local retailers every week from Thursday to either Saturday or Sunday from Black Friday — Nov. 24 — to the weekend before Christmas — making for five weekends of shopping.

When not housing retailers, Potter said the shelters will play host to other offerings, such as a Teddy bear house for kids and photo opportunities.

Potter said one of the most notable benefits of the shelters will be that they offer a more comfortable setting during unpredictable Iowa winters. The market’s first year saw 40-degree temperatures, while last year it was below zero, she noted.

“It’s really challenging in cold weather,” she said. “We wanted an ideal shopping experience.”

Akar Architecture’s Sanjay Jani was the chosen architect for the temporary shelters, which look similar to shipping containers, with some holiday themes and colors.

The Iowa City Council last week approved the first of three readings to allow the installation of the temporary structures on the Pedestrian Mall. The shops will be located at the Black Hawk Mini Park.

Potter said the site of the pop-up stores will act as a hub of sorts for a list of downtown events and programs over the five-week span between Thanksgiving and Christmas, including Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, held on Nov. 24 and 25, respectively.

“There’s just an experience that can’t be replicated outside of downtown, so every year we’re trying to add to that experience. This is just kind of the next evolution of that holiday market,” she said.

Additional information on the pop-up stores, as well as all Downtown District holiday events, can be found online at

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