University officials share their vision for Campustown

James Heggen

University officials involved in the revitalization project for Campustown discussed their goals for the project and want a new look.

The project is still in the planning stages. The master developer, Lane4 Property Group, is currently studying the project, and will be traveling to Ames next week to hold public meetings to gather input.

The city and university recently entered into a three-party resolution, which spelled out obligations from the three groups — including on the city side, not to search for another developer and for Lane4 to have a concept ready in 180 days.

Warren Madden, vice president for business and finance, has been at the university for 43 years and attended Iowa State in the 1950s. He said Campustown looks quite different than it did when he was a student.

Madden said he would like to see an improvement in the physical aspect of the area, as well as a greater diversity in the stores there.

“One, it would be aesthetically and physically more appealing,” he said. “It would be an area people would want to go in to and visit and also be safe.”

Cathy Brown, assistant director of campus physical planning, said some parts of Campustown look rundown, and she hopes the project will address that.

“I think some of what I’d like to see is about cleaning it up,” she said.

She would also like to see the area have a stronger identity.

“I’d like see that there’s a sense of pride, that students feel a sense of pride,” she said.

Madden said the desire is to offer more variety in the types of stores in Campustown, such as restaurants and entertainment venues.

“I think we would like to see a broader range of food establishments, some that might draw a little broader age base group of people,” he said.

In addition, Madden said they would like to see some type of retail store, such as a grocery and drug store in the area, as well as more entertainment options.

But Madden assured the goal is not to drive the bars out of Campustown.

“I don’t think anyone wants all the bars to be gone,” he said. “I think people would like to have a little more variety in terms of places that attract a broader range of client and customers, so that it’s not just the 21- to 25-year-olds.”

Brown also said she would like to have a “greater mix of retail” in the area, and have services offered that currently are not available in the area, such as a grocery store.

“One of the other goals I am hopeful of achieving is that we can create some daytime balance to the use of Campustown,” she said.

It has been discussed that one of the ways to achieve this would be to have offices, possibly university staff, in the area, she said.

At this point, Madden said he didn’t know what businesses in the area right now would remain after the project is done. He said an issue that might arise is the fact that when you redevelop a space, the rental rates will usually increase, which may force some to move.

“Now, will there be some change in some of the businesses in Campustown? I suspect so,” he said. “But certainly one of the planning processes is what does happen to the existing businesses in Campustown.”

Madden said if a business wants to stay in the area, he expects Lane4 to work with it to do that. He said it will also be taken into account future businesses that will join the local economy.

Both said they want the area to continue to serve students, but to attract a broader part of the community as well.

The lack of parking is also an issue in Campustown. This will be at least partially addressed with the construction of the intermodal facility, but Lane4 has some ideas to address the situation, as well, Madden said.

Madden said with many of these types of projects in areas like Campustown, an expansion of housing is usually included. However, he said, from a city and university perspective, they don’t really think it would be necessary because there are university housing and apartment complexes already in the city. But it’s not off the table, either.

“On the other hand, if you need it in order to make the economics of all of this work, that’s going to be one of the conversations we’ll have to have with Lane4,” he said.