Government

Iowa City's Pedestrian Mall construction to begin Monday

Businesses will remain open during two-year project

Bricks on the Pedestrian Mall in Iowa City have settled. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Bricks on the Pedestrian Mall in Iowa City have settled. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — Construction on Iowa City’s Pedestrian Mall is scheduled to begin Monday as part of a two-year effort to improve underground utilities and the street-level look of the area.

Downtown visitors can expect much of the same as 2016’s Washington Street construction, which left pedestrians making their way along temporary winding walkways to affected businesses.

This year’s work is expected to be completed this fall and include the Dubuque Street section as well as Black Hawk Mini Park and the Dubuque and College Street intersection.

The second phase, on the College Street portion, is set to be complete in fall 2019.

Crews will begin with trimming and removing trees, according to a media release from Iowa City. The finished Ped Mall will feature more diverse trees than when work began.

All businesses are expected to remain open during the project.

Throughout the work, the city will post updates using the hashtag #PedProject on Facebook and Twitter to keep residents up to date, according to the release.

Earlier this month, the Iowa City Council awarded the project to Portzen Construction for a base bid of $6.8 million.

Despite major construction projects on both the Ped Mall, a downtown signature destination, and the Gateway Project on Dubuque Street, a major artery into the city, this summer, the city was selected to host an overnight RAGBRAI stop in July. During RAGBRAI, construction on the Ped Mall will be tucked away and look as neatly as possible said Geoff Fruin, city manager, during a RAGBRAI announcement event earlier this month.

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Iowa City Downtown District features such as the Downtown Block Party, Friday Night Concert Series and Shop Crawl, among others, also are planned for this summer, according to the organization’s latest newsletter.

“The biggest thing for us is our messaging to everyone is that the Pedestrian Mall is open,” said Betsy Potter, the district’s director of operations. “There’s still a number of things that will be going on here so it won’t be intimidating or scary or anything like that.”

The district will put up wayfinding signage around construction fencing for pedestrians as well as paint interactive art on the ground of alleyways surrounding the Ped Mall. The idea is to make the alleys safe and intriguing so people are more willing to walk down them to visit affected businesses.

Similar to last holiday season’s pop-up shops, the district plans to install two pop-up structures with decks. They’ll serve as centers for activity like live music, board game libraries and ping-pong tables, among others this summer.

l Comments: (319) 339-3172; maddy.arnold@thegazette.com

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