Government

With Ped Mall work soon, Iowa City invites public to open house

Construction begins at and of the month; merchants will remain open

People walk over the bricks on the Pedestrian Mall in Iowa City on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. Iowa City sent out a survey asking if residents would be interested in buying the Ped Mall bricks that they're tearing up this summer. But the bids for salvaging and cleaning came in too high, so the city still is considering what to do. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
People walk over the bricks on the Pedestrian Mall in Iowa City on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. Iowa City sent out a survey asking if residents would be interested in buying the Ped Mall bricks that they're tearing up this summer. But the bids for salvaging and cleaning came in too high, so the city still is considering what to do. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — Although perfect patio weather has yet to arrive, the days downtown visitors have to enjoy a construction-free Pedestrian Mall are numbered.

Contractors are expected to begin underground utility and streetscape improvement work on the Ped Mall April 30, and continue over the next two construction seasons. The city has scheduled a final informational open house for the public from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday in Meeting Room A at the Iowa City Public Library.

“One of the first things they’ll do is set up the fencing to fence off the construction area,” said Scott Sovers, senior civil engineer with the city. “The first phase of the project, the contractor will be working on the interior part of the Ped Mall with the pedestrians pushed up against the buildings or up against the businesses.”

At the meeting, community members can expect to hear a summary of the project, details of the construction phasing and schedule as well as have an opportunity to ask questions.

For those who cannot attend, the city is planning to broadcast it on Facebook live starting at 4:30 p.m. at facebook.com/cityofiowacity.

At its last meeting, the Iowa City Council awarded the project to Portzen Construction for a base bid of $6.8 million.

The Dubuque Street section of the Ped Mall is expected to be the first section replaced, with the College Street corridor following in 2019.

The Ped Mall work is part of the same project that left Washington Street torn up in 2016. Sovers said pedestrians can expect much of the same walkways to get to the affected businesses, which are all planned to remain open.

During the 2016 construction, the Iowa City Downtown District put on a series of events, called Open Washington, with the hope of spurring more people to visit the businesses. While the district plans do more construction mitigation programming this time around, specifics have to wait for the city and contractor to finalize construction details.

“Now they’re working through some of the other construction elements that are relative to staging and equipment and getting in and out of the site that can impact what we’re doing with programming,” said Nancy Bird, executive director of the district.

Bird said, however, the district has been working to improve its alleyways, including facilitating the painting of a number of murals to beautify the area.

“It should be an interesting storyline for downtown Iowa City. While this construction project is happening, there’s going to be a lot of other artistic elements that are going to be playing out all summer long,” Bird said. “The other kind of event-type things that we’ll be doing are lesser known.”

Future of salvageable Ped Mall bricks unknown

Earlier this year, Iowa City released a survey asking residents if they’d be interested in purchasing old Ped Mall bricks. However, the bid for salvaging, cleaning and placing bricks on pallets came in too high, said city senior civil engineer Scott Sovers. Now, the city will simply remove them and store them at one of the parks for potential reuse later on instead.

Sovers said staff still are trying to look for a more sustainable option for the salvageable bricks instead of dumping them at the landfill. He said sometime this summer city staff would know more about a potential brick sale.

“We haven’t really determined what that (use) is at this time,” Sovers said. “There’s a potential that they could be offered to the public. They’re just going to have to pick through a pile and pick the ones that they want.”

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

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