Letter to the editor: The changing cityscape of Campustown

Charlie Coffey

Due to consistent and record growth in the early years of the current decade, Ames has seen a boom in student-oriented housing. Locations such as Stadium View Apartments, Copper Beech Townhomes, 23 Twenty Lincoln Way and the new development on Sheldon Avenue and Lincoln Way are amongst others as responses to the supposed affordable housing crisis in Ames.

While increasing housing options is typically a welcomed solution to growth, these and future developments have permanently changed the landscape of Ames. As the city continues to grow, both temporary students and permanent residents must ask themselves how they see the space around them. The answers to this question should be the determining factors in the developing urban scape that is Ames.

A recent survey by the City of Ames Public Works Department and the Iowa State Community and Regional Planning Group has tackled this question. The survey asked residents how they would like to see the transportation infrastructure along Welch Avenue changed. The results showed interest in bike lanes, removing on-street parking and creating wider sidewalks for café seating. These interests indicate a distinguishing conception of how Campustown should be: catered to pedestrians and cyclists with an emphasis on businesses that promote leisure culture. Historically, Campustown has served as a hub for student nightlife and dining. Missing from these conceptualizations of the neighborhood are residential complexes. Student-targeted residences in the past have been placed west of campus or further south than Campustown.

Only in the last decade has an increasing number of large multistory apartment buildings that include study spaces, gyms, and lounges sprung up along Lincoln Way and elsewhere. These complexes often charge rent for about double the monthly rate of the average apartment in Ames. They attract students by advertising their amenities and utilizing lease incentives such as complimentary televisions. Yet many of the amenities listed are traditionally found on campus through spaces like State Gymnasium, Parks Library or Union Drive Community Center. Through offering these amenities on site, these residential complexes draw students away from campus and divide the community. They also drive housing prices in Ames up, as other rental properties take advantage of price disparity to raise rates. The quick raising of these housing options also leads to uninteresting modular design and faulty pre-fabricated construction. Additionally, the creation of apartment towers often involves the destruction of older, and possibly historic buildings that may fit the conceptualization of Campustown better.

For example, there is a new development in planning on Lincoln Way across from Friley Hall. To build this residential complex, two buildings have been demolished and a third will be soon. These buildings were one or two stories high, fitting along with the rest on that block, and housed businesses such as Taste Place, an Asian family-style restaurant; The District, a short-lived but upscale bar; and FLC Skate Shop, a staple in Ames skateboard culture.

Instead of repurposing these buildings as restaurants, bars, or cafes, fitting the idea of Campustown, they have been lost forever. The cityscape of the neighborhood will be changed drastically when a brand new multistory residential tower looms over Friley Hall, a historic and predominantly horizontal building.