Government

Protesters plan Ped Mall 'sleep in' today over new benches

Critics say new benches are 'hostile' to homeless people

New benches on Iowa City’s downtown the Pedestrian Mall have middle armrests that critics say are meant to deter homeless people from sleeping there. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
New benches on Iowa City’s downtown the Pedestrian Mall have middle armrests that critics say are meant to deter homeless people from sleeping there. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — The Catholic Worker House is planning a “sleep in” protest this afternoon in hopes of persuading city leaders to reconsider the new Pedestrian Mall bench design.

The nonprofit representatives say the new bench design, which includes armrests to divide up the seating, is a “hostile design” that does not allow people who are homeless to comfortably lie down on the benches.

To illustrate the problem, the Catholic Worker House is holding a “sleep in” from 1 to 2 p.m. today on the Ped Mall.

The new benches were installed as part of the first of a two-season construction project to improve the Ped Mall’s underground utilities and streetscape.

Scott Sovers, senior civil engineer for the city, said the design simply was meant to increase seating on the Ped Mall and make people feel more comfortable sitting on a bench with another person.

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

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