WATERLOO — Expect to see “pardon our progress” signs along U.S. Highway 63 this spring.The highway corridor from downtown Waterloo north through the UnityPoint Health-Allen Hospital will turn into a major construction zone as highway contractors rebuild the road and entrepreneurs invest in projects outside the curbs.
“This has been a great looking project for the community that’s stirred economic and educational benefits,” said Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart. “It’s restored a sense of pride, and it’s going to correct some of the challenges we’ve had.
“This has the recognition of our neighborhood groups,” he added. “It’s just been a very positive, positive project for the community.”
Economic development and neighborhood improvements were a key aspect of the highway project, which kicked off in 2013 when the Iowa Department of Transportation began rebuilding the roadway between Newell and Donald streets.
Construction and detours are expected again this spring when contractors return to complete the northbound lanes of U.S. 63 through the downtown to Franklin Street. The southbound lanes on Mullan Avenue were rebuilt in 2017.
Also starting this spring is a $26.4 million project for Peterson Contractors Inc. of Reinbeck to rebuild the highway between Franklin and Newell streets and erect a landscape-changing bridge over the Canadian National Railway tracks, replacing the flood-prone underpass there.
Pete Hjelmstad, IDOT District 2 field services coordinator, said the downtown to Franklin work should wrap in late November, but the overpass segment between Franklin and Newell will remain closed through next winter and into the fall of 2019.
The threat of detours and construction traffic isn’t scaring off developers like Rodney Anderson and Dan Levi.
The entrepreneurs are preparing to break ground this spring on a new 30,000-square-foot supermarket near the CVS Pharmacy at U.S. 63 and Franklin. The planned $8.5 million All In Grocers will include a restaurant and community room and is expected to employ 80 to 100 people.
“This is personal to me,” said Anderson, who previously invested in a nearby retail building including Earth Beauty Supply and Harold’s Chicken.
Levi said the goal is to complete construction and open before the end of 2018.
“We’re still working with the Walnut Neighborhood to get their feedback,” Levi said. “They’re really fired up about the project. We’re already getting calls from nonprofits and others wanting to use the community room.”
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Anderson and Levi are working with UpLift Solutions, a nonprofit company that provides technical support to grocery stores locating in under served neighborhoods.
“They’ll be involved with us even after we open,” Levi said. “They’ve never had a store fail.”
North Crossing, a project replacing the former Logan Plaza strip mall on the northeast corner of U.S. 63 and Donald, will continue to develop this year.
Contractors in February were putting the finishing touches on a 23,000-square-foot primary care medical clinic, a 10,260-square-foot building partially occupied by an urgent care clinic and a new facade on an existing strip mall.
“We pretty much have everything spoken for that will be up this year,” said North Crossing developer Ben Stroh. “You’ll start to see activity and cars around there before long.”
North Crossing just finished platting a lot for a new Kwik Star convenience store on the corner of U.S. 63 and Donald.
“We’re hoping that it will get done in ‘18,” Stroh said. “I think that Kwik Star is going to be a great addition to that neighborhood and the hospital.
“Other than that, I don’t know how much activity you’ll see this year,” he added. “But I know we’ll be doing a lot of planning and I anticipate a lot of activity in 2019.”
Construction on two major downtown projects along the highway are expected to be finished early this year.
Developer Brent Dahlstrom is wrapping up working on a new Grand Crossing building at Mullan and Jefferson Street, which will include a Jimmy John’s restaurant and ground floor office space with upper floor condominiums.
Hawkeye Community College is expected to finish its downtown metro campus building on the former Waterloo Bowl-In site along Jefferson between East First Street and Mullan Avenue.