WATERLOO — A firm overseeing a resurgence in downtown Waterloo will stay on board for at least another year.
City Council members voted unanimously Monday to approve a new $72,000 annual contract with Vandewalle and Associates, of Madison, Wis., to keep providing urban planning services for downtown revitalization.
Vandewalle was the original architect of a downtown master plan started in 1999 and has been paid ever since by both the city and Waterloo Development Corp. to help implement projects.
Several council members, including Margaret Klein and Chris Shimp, grilled the consultants about whether the city still needed their services.
“Are we going to be joined by Vandewalle or any company like that forever?” Klein asked. “Do you see an end game in sight?”
Council members Sharon Juon and Pat Morrissey both suggested Vandewalle’s efforts should expand beyond its current focus on the downtown’s west side.
“You’ve done so much on the west side, and I know the work’s not complete, but let’s not forget the east side as well,” Juon said.
Company president Brian Vandewalle said he couldn’t predict how long the city may choose to use his firm, but noted some $100 million in projects are in the pipeline.
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“You’re getting to the point where you’ve achieved a lot, you’ve got momentum, you’re over the first hurdle,” Vandewalle said. “You’ve really got to capture that momentum and make sure you don’t lose it, because you’ve got a lot to do yet.”
Marta Purdy, the Vandewalle planner assigned to Waterloo, ran through a $180 million list of completed projects including the Phelps Youth Pavilion, RiverLoop Expo and RiverLoop Amphitheater, riverside trails and enhancements, Cedar Valley SportsPlex, Cedar Valley TechWorks, Courtyard by Marriott Hotel, Grand Condominiums and more.
“This was all intentional,” Purdy said. “It’s really been a long-term planning process and strategy.”
She noted the effort has resulted in 400 new downtown residences, with 200 more in the works, and 59,000 annual hotel visitors. That equates to $1.7 million in new downtown spending each year, she said.
Community Planning and Development Director Noel Anderson said Vandewalle’s expertise is vital to complying with the Iowa Reinvestment District around the TechWorks. Waterloo is getting 20 years of state sales tax and hotel-motel taxes generated in the district and needs development to pay off the city’s $12 million loan to projects there.
Mayor Quentin Hart threw his support behind the contract.
“All I know is we are seeing fantastic growth and opportunity (downtown),” Hart said. “I think it’s a healthy investment now and we’re starting to see a return on our investment.”