Development plan released for Southeast Side


Residents living in the southeastern area of Iowa City can expect improved pedestrian trails, less time wasted in traffic, and a general expansion of businesses in the area.

The Iowa City Planning and Zoning Commission unveiled its Southeast District Plan at a public hearing Thursday night.

The district is the seventh of 10 Iowa City areas with a completed plan for redevelopment. The Planning and Zoning Commission held the meeting to involve the community in the process of restructuring certain parts of the district.

“The goals and the text of the plan [are] really based on all the public input that we’ve gathered the past several years,” said Karen Howard, an associate city planner.

One of the most anticipated projects is a rail overpass where the tracks cross First Avenue to relieve traffic congestion. Federal funds will provide $2.4 million, with the city furnishing the remaining $4 million. Senior planner Robert Miklo said acquisition of the remaining amount was in reach, and the project would begin in the next couple of years.

This summer, the city will restructure Lower Muscatine Road near Kirkwood Community College, reducing four lanes to three. The project will total $3.5 million, about half of which comes from federal funds, and will include a sidewalk for the area’s pedestrians.

“We do have a fairly high percentage of people who walk and bike,” said transportation planner John Yapp.

The city is making an effort to facilitate pedestrian transportation in several areas, he said, and that would provide healthy byproducts.

“There’s also the environmental benefits and traffic benefits,” Yapp said.

City officials began discussing the Southeast District Plan in April 2009, when the Planning and Zoning Commission met with residents, business owners, and property owners in the area.

Commission members have a broad vision for the Southeast District and intend to develop in industrial, commercial, and residential areas, and restructure public transit.

Though the plan is extensive and detailed, commission secretary Wally Plahutnik said the proposal is primarily a concept.

“This is all a wish list and a guidance for us as we are consider plans for the future,” he said.

Approximately 30 residents attended the meeting, and the few who posed questions to the panel addressed concerns for their respective neighborhoods.

Sarah Lynch, who attended with husband Andrew Lynch, said she wanted to ensure a hospitable environment for her children.

“I think it’s really vital for families that there’s a park or a school [in the area],” she said.

Officials said they have received positive feedback about a trail they built in the Court Hill neighborhood, and they plan to connect walking paths in several residential areas.

“We want new neighborhoods to be walkable and bikable,” Howard said.

The Planning and Zoning Commission will send the proposal to the Iowa City City Council. Miklo said he believes City Council will adopt the plan by late winter or spring.

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