LANE4 proposals incite praise, disapproval

The corner of Welch Avenue and Lincoln Way has changed drastically over the years. Many of the bars used to be on Main Street, but now they are along Welch Avenue and in Campustown.

Sarah Clark and Chelsea Davis

Anticipation filled the air as LANE4 Property Group revealed its newest plans for Campustown at the city’s public input meeting Wednesday night.

Students, faculty and Ames community members nearly filled the Maintenance Shop at the Memorial Union to hear the newest plans for the area around Welch Avenue and Lincoln Way. LANE4, Iowa State and the city of Ames are working together to create a family- and student-friendly area in the Ames community.

Hunter Harris, LANE4 director of development, revealed the new developments in store for the Campustown area. Ideas discussed included a small grocery or drug store, a higher-end restaurant, a hotel and a high-tech movie theater that might be used as classrooms during the day.

Harris stressed the importance of students submitting their input.

LANE4 has made multiple trips to the Ames area, meeting with student focus groups throughout the summer to find out what students want.

Although the consensus has been fairly consistent so far, Harris still wants more input from all community members to ensure Campustown will fulfill the needs and desires of most residents.

Doug Ziminski, owner of Leedz Salon, 2536 Lincoln Way, became frustrated as he tried to pull answers out of Harris concerning the possibility of a movie theater used as classrooms during the day.

“Where will the most profitability come from?” Ziminski said. “From popcorn and Diet Cokes? You’re not here to help us; you’re here to make a profit.”

Ziminski stressed that the Government of the Student Body’s theater proposal money was on hold, but Luke Roling, president of GSB, interrupted.

“GSB was approached by LANE4 and has worked with us to incorporate our project, no matter what form it takes,” Roling said.

The theater would most likely be a “boutique theater,” as Harris called it, housing six auditoriums that could seat up to 300 people and as few as 80 people.

LANE4 is optimistic about the project. Harris said they are “just as excited about it now as they were when it began.”

With a current population of 28,682 students, businesses are very interested in filling the needs of the Campustown area. Harris said approximately 30 businesses will be part of the new Campustown area.

“What attracted us was that Campustown is a very unique asset, right across the street from the university,” said Owen Buckley, president of LANE4. “It definitely has the seeds to grow into something much better.”

Ziminski also raised concerns about the possibility of a grocery store, saying it sounds unsustainable. He stressed that most major grocery stores are profitable because of the large flow of traffic and huge parking lots.

Harris responded by saying the store would be smaller, more like a Trader Joe’s, where students or community members could stop in to pick up a few items throughout the day.

“I’d like to buy groceries on the way home, rather than having to drive all the way to Hy-Vee or Walmart,” said Jared Gebauer, senior in landscape architecture.

Marriott, Hilton and West Inn have been among the hotels considered, and Buffalo Wild Wings, Ruby Tuesday and Red Robin are among potential restaurants considered for the area. Harris is hopeful that student input will determine which businesses are right for Campustown.

Along with the many businesses, LANE4 revealed that the public expressed a desire for a neat, open area for outdoor events and picnics.

With site planning, community consensus and financial negotiations in the works this year, Harris is hopeful that construction can begin by this time next year. Optimistically, LANE4 expects Campustown to be completely finished in three to four years.

Harris said the project will be carried out more gradually rather than tearing everything down and rebuilding from the ground up.

While some structures will be torn down and reconstructed, many businesses will renovate existing buildings to cut down on costs.

LANE4 is working to complete the project at the lowest cost possible. However, Harris expects the project to cost between $40 and $50 million.

“Campustown is the front door to the university,” Harris said. “The city and the university are frustrated because they know Campustown could be better.”

Company representatives hopes to be back within six months to get more student input and potentially conduct a market research project to determine the amount of space needed in the proposed hotel.