Town and Gown conference: Campustown reassessed

James Heggen

City and university officials gave a presentation about the revitalization of the two commercial cores of Ames: downtown and Campustown.

The talk was part of the 5th Annual Best Practices in Building University/City Relations Conference held this year in Ames.

The conference is put on by the International Town and Gown Association, an organization of university cities for discussing issues unique to these types of cities.

The Campustown revitalization is still in the development phase.Lane 4 Property Group, Inc., the university and the city recently entered into an agreement and will have a plan at the end of a 180-day period.

Cathy Brown, program manager for facilities planning and management; Steve Schainker, Ames city manager; Warren Madden, vice president for business and finance; Steve Osguthorpe, director of planning and housing; Dan Culhane, president and CEO of the Ames Chamber and Economic Development Commission, were all part of the session.

The current focus area is the two city blocks between the streets of Lincoln Way and Chamberlin Street and between Hayward Avenue to Stanton Avenue. The area currently has 30 different landowners.

Campustown has been a topic of discussion for some time, but now interest is high and plans to do something about the area are moving forward, Brown said.

“In some ways that deterioration has been an asset because it allowed people to come together,” Brown said.

Brown said there is a lot of alignment right now on the issue, but admits it may be difficult because they are dealing with so many different property owners.

“Sure, I think it’s possible we’ll have some challenges,” she said.

Schainker said the project would not be able to go forward without the support and interest of Iowa State in the project.

“Right now the Campustown area is not an area that helps us recruit students and provide a kind of environment across from the campus that we think is, productive,” he said.

Madden said they want the area “to continue to serve students,” but at the same time they want to attract more of the rest of the community.

“Part of the challenge right now …. is it’s got lots of bars and tattoo parlors, [that] kind of businesses,” he said. “And there’s nothing wrong with those, but we want a broader mix.”