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Cedar Falls maps plan for managing downtown growth

Cedar Falls maps plan for managing downtown growth

CEDAR FALLS — The City Council Monday adopted a planning guide for future downtown development.

Council members unanimously voted in favor of the 88-page “Imagine Downtown! Cedar Falls Downtown Vision Plan.” The document has been under development since last spring.

“We would just like to thank council and city staff. We appreciate the hard work,” Carol Lilly, executive director of Cedar Falls Community Main Street, said before the plan was approved.

An extensive public engagement process throughout the spring and summer helped officials develop the plan. A draft was presented at a September open house with opportunities for feedback at October Planning & Zoning Commission meetings.

The Cedar River, 14th Street, Waterloo Road and Iowa Highway 58 are the western boundary of the area included in the plan. Eighteenth Street to Main Street is the southern boundary.

The eastern boundary follows Main up to 10th Street, Franklin Street up to Eighth Street, Tremont Street up to Sixth Street, Iowa Street up to Second Street and then runs along First Street to College Street. Ida Street and the river form the northern boundary.

Throughout the process, according to the plan’s executive summary, residents, business and property owners, and elected officials “consistently indicated a desire for an economically viable, walkable, mixed-use downtown” where people can get the goods and services they regularly need. People also want the area to be “surrounded by neighborhoods that provide a range of housing options.”

Planners wrote that, along with being a framework for growth, they hope that it will “provide inspiration for the quality and character of that development.” A series of recommendations in the plan include:

  • Increase the “sense of place” throughout downtown.
  • Define the public realm with active building facades and additional street trees.
  • Recognize that downtown (and nearby neighborhoods) are not the same as the rest of the city.
  • Design Downtown Gateways to provide a sense of arrival.
  • Expand beyond the success of the Parkade as a destination environment.
  • Implement the street and sidewalk rebuilding program to improve the pedestrian environment and enhance walkability.
  • Understand the market and use it to create more housing and employment options.
  • Change the rules for development.
  • Create a consistent process for development review and approval.
  • Manage and carefully increase the parking supply.
  • Update the current parking requirements.

The plan’s executive summary notes that it “envisions incremental growth within the current Downtown context, building on the success of the past while recognizing the importance of growth and development to maintaining a livable and economically vibrant city.” It adds that “achieving the vision will take place over a number of years, or even decades.”

Resident Roger White, a member of the Cedar Falls Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee, highlighted a set of parking recommendations and urged that bicycles be included. “I didn’t see anything there for bicycle parking,” he said, suggesting that what is currently provided for on sidewalks is “not adequate.”

White also endorsed recommendations for bicycle lanes in the plan, while proposing they go further along Main Street than what is indicated. He said the lane should start at Sixth Street and “continue at least to Seerley (Boulevard),” which is beyond 18th Street.

Karen Howard, the city’s planning and community services manager, said work on zoning improvements will be among the initial steps in moving forward with the plan.

“You probably won’t see a draft until sometime next spring,” she told the council.

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Vern Fish, an avid paddler committed to exploring and preserving our natural heritage, will be featured at the next Hartman Reserve 2nd Sunday Speaker Series program on Dec. 8.

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