The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa City signs new cleaning contract for downtown

The City of Iowa City and the Downtown District partnered with Block by Block, which specializes in cleaning, safety, and hospitality services.
Ethan McLaughlin
Members of the Iowa City City Council hear proposals during a city council special format meeting on Tuesday, April 2, 2024.

Iowa City residents can expect to see a cleaner downtown following a newly signed contract with a national cleaning company.

City of Iowa City Director of Transportation Darian Nagle-Gamm said the city has experienced significant challenges with current janitorial contractor ABM Industries. One issue Nagle-Gamm mentioned was trash liners not being replaced. The City of Iowa City and Iowa City Downtown District signed a contract with Block by Block this month.

The city’s contract with ABM Industries amounted to around $320,000 per year, Nagle-Gamm said. According to the agenda, the new three-year contract with Block by Block will cost over $700,000 each year.

The city will cover 86 percent of the cost, while the Downtown District will cover 14 percent. The city’s share of the funds will be provided through the Parking and General revenues.

The ABM Industries contract will expire on April 1, and the new contract will begin on June 1, city documents state. In the gap between the two, the city will handle cleaning duties.

The increase in contract cost is because of the added hospitality and enhanced cleaning services Block by Block will offer the city, Nagle-Gamm said at the meeting.

The company works with about 150 communities across the U.S., many of them located in the Midwest. Des Moines has worked with Block by Block to keep its downtown “clean and green” since 2002, according to the company’s website.

Downtown District Executive Director Betsy Potter said Block by Block was on their radar for many years but was not a partnership the downtown district could make on its own.

Rachel Kilburg Varley, the city’s economic development coordinator, said Block by Block will provide cleaning services seven days a week, almost sixteen hours a day on most days of clean up of sidewalks, city-owned parking ramps, and semi-private company buildings.

“The other benefit of this is that it helps meet some of those gaps that weren’t being met before,” Kilburg said. “City staff obviously can’t work on private property, but now through this contract, they’ll work with property owners and business owners to obtain prior approval.”

Block by Block visited Iowa City and assessed what the city’s downtown could benefit from investing more in. The assessors mentioned the cleanliness of semi-private and public places, highlighting the Graduate Iowa City hotel walkway as an area that could be improved, Potter said.

According to Kilburg Varley, the three-year contract with Block by Block will largely focus on cleaning the downtown area and city-owned parking decks.

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Kilburg Varley said Block by Block is a great fit for the Iowa City community because they will hire a full-time operations manager who lives in Iowa City.

“With downtown being the ‘living room’ of the community in some ways, it’s an area we want to make sure always feels clean, safe, and welcoming to anyone who wants to spend time downtown,” Kilburg Varley said.

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