City Council holds workshop on the vision of Campustown


Courtesy of City of Ames

The Urban Revitalization Area, which was created by the City Council in 2016, is hoped to be expanded on by the workshop. 

Devyn Leeson

City Council held a workshop on July 17 discussing a new vision for Campustown development that included more efficient use of land and an increase in public spaces.

Improvements along Welch Avenue were largely what the workshop focused on, with proposals such as moving the fire station, adding a public plaza, closing down parts of Chamberlain Street and adjusting Campustown parking.

The public plaza was an item of high interest among councilmembers and the public. There were two possible locations for a public area. The lot behind the buildings northwest of Chamberlain Street and Welch Avenue would allow for a space 180 by 70 feet. The corner lot southeast of Welch Avenue and Chamberlain Street would allow 0.2 acres of land and possibly 0.5 acres if the section of Chamberlain street south of the Welch Avenue fire station were turned into a lot.

While the area would be slightly small for a plaza, members on the Council still thought it would serve a purpose.

“I am not convinced this is too small of an area,” said At-Large representative Bronwyn Beatty-Hansen.

Ward Two representative Tim Gartin proposed moving the fire station in addition to blocking off the nearby section of Chamberlain to open up a larger lot for the plaza.

“I don’t think that fire station should be there,” Gartin said. “It is too congested. If we freed that piece of property, there would be something we could do with that area.”

A motion was then passed to direct staff to looking into moving the fire station to a new lot along Chamberlain Street.

There were traffic concerns associated with Welch Avenue if roads were to close along it, specifically with the incoming CyRide 2.0 changes.

With CyRide 2.0, there was a push to have more routes go along Welch Avenue, and the Gold Route in particular is set to pass through Welch Avenue both ways every 10 minutes.

“I have no idea how CyRide can get through every 10 minutes,” said Liz Jeffery, owner of Arcadia cafe on Welch Avenue. “There are constant delivery trucks scheduled to stop there.”

Jeffery explained how the space along Welch Avenue is already too cramped for some of her customers.

“We had a customer ask if we could have a truck moved, as the exhaust fumes were ruining her lunch,” Jeffery said.

Others in the community outlined the importance of getting the vision right.

“This is a very important area in the community,” said Ames resident Luke Jensen. “It is the front door to Ames in a lot of ways.”

Jensen said to be aware of the amount of work it would take to make sure the Campustown gets the investment necessary.

“There are many different perspectives of what this vision looks like,” Jensen said. “What scale do we want this to be? Are we prepared as a community to make a large investment in this area? When I talk about a substantial investment, I am talking about a lot of money, a lot of risk.”

Betcher added additional ideas for what could draw public support, including creating space for food trucks and pickup spots for ride-booking apps like Uber or Lyft.

“I know it would require space, if we want to pursue that, but it is something we should keep in mind,” Betcher said.

This idea piqued the interest of one of the students in the room.

Iowa State student James Rangel said he supported the idea of a pedestrian mall, a plaza, food trucks and dedicated spaces for Uber and Lyft pickups but was against the idea of closing Chamberlain Street.

As the only student to speak at the workshop, Rangel voiced their concern.

“I don’t feel inclusion,” Rangel said. “If I wasn’t a part of these groups, then I wouldn’t know what is going on in Campustown.”

Ward Two representative Tim Gartin agreed, saying they wanted to get more input from students.

“I don’t know if we have engaged students,” Gartin said. “This seems like an odd conversation to be having by ourselves.”

The Council agreed to look into ways to engage with students more the next time they were to discuss it.

Staff suggested the Council come to a conclusion within the next months, as these changes would have to be decided within that timeframe to have Campustown changes finished by 2020.