City Council talks construction in Ames

City Council members hold their weekly meeting on Tuesday, Mar. 29 to discuss the re-development project on Lincoln Way, a commercial moratorium, pedestrian safety measures, and other pressing topics in the city of Ames.

Jill Alt

Put on your hard hats Ames residents because more construction is on the way.

The Ames City Council met for their weekly meeting in the City Hall on Tuesday to discuss a Campustown Plaza concept, pedestrian safety changes near Lincoln way, a redevelopment of Lincoln Way including a new apartment complex and hotel, and other improvements in the community. 

The Campus Community Commission (CCC) members working on the Campustown Plaza — including current Student Body Vice President Cody Smith and Director of Residence Pete Englin — were present to discuss the findings of their report on the potential communal area.

The current focused location for the area is 204 Welch Ave., across from the Ames Fire Department. Smith said that this was intentional for safety reasons, and that security has been a primary focus of many of the CCC meetings. 

“The reason that that location was ideal is because it is across from the fire station, and the fire department can act as a lookout,” Smith said. 

The object of the motion was for the council to determine if further study was necessary, or if the report was ready to be accepted. The council voted to accept the report with a unanimous vote.

This was met with a response from Nitin Gadia, who said he has been involved in processes regarding public spaces for some time and experienced what he felt was exclusion from a public process in regards to the Campustown Plaza concept.

Mayor John Haila acknowledged Gadia and pointed out that these meetings have been online and are open and public, and Council Member Tim Gartin mentioned that this is still in the “early early stages.” 

At Tuesday night’s meeting, the Lincoln Way Pedestrian Safety Study was discussed by the City Council. The goals of the study are:

  1. Retime traffic signals and implement a Leading Pedestrian Interval (LPI) — a traffic signal strategy that gives pedestrians an 3 to 5 second signal or “head start” to begin crossing the street before cars get a green light
  2. Reconfigure left turn lanes at Lincoln Way and Welch
  3. Construct an enhanced north-south crossing at Lincoln Way and Stanton.

However these changes will not be cheap. Low estimates puts a total cost at above $120,000, and high estimates put the cost at $150,000. 

 Physical Change Planing Level Cost Estimates
 Location  Description  Low Cost Est.  High Cost Est.
 Welch Ave  —Remove concrete median
 —Reconstruct concrete median nose
 —Repave Repaint crosswalk
 —Restripe turn lane
 $8,500  $10,000

 Stanton Ave-
 Cross Walk

 —Remove concrete median
 —Repave Patch median curb
 —Repaint crosswalk
 —Curb ramps
 —Curbline modifications
 $12,000  $15,000

 Stanton Ave- 
 Median Closure/

 —Remove concrete median
 —Remove base material
 —Add soil
 —Patch median curb landscaping
 —Black picket-style fence in median 

 $100,000  $125,000
 Corridor Retiming  Implement signal cycle length, phasing plan and offset recommendations from study.  Minimal  Minimal

According to the legislation, The City Council passed the retiming plan at the meeting in February, and requested a funding recommendation for the physical improvements. The Pedestrian Safety Staff has identified $40,000 in Road Use Tax project savings from two recent traffic signal replacements that can be utilized for these improvements.

RAGBRAI XLVI (The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) was also discussed at the meeting in the Council Chambers, including the routes, venues, ordinances, and vendors for the event. The bicycle riders of this annual tour will be passing through Ames from Tuesday, July 24 to Wednesday, July 25. 

Approximately 10,000 riders are registered currently, but including personnel, non registered riders, single day riders, and other visitors, the Ames Convention and Visitors Bureau (ACVB) anticipates a wave of around 25,000 people for RAGBRAI. In comparison to the Ames population of 30,000, (not including Iowa State students— with ISU students its approximately 66,000 as of 2016) this is a massive increase in population. 

The city council discussed the current locations being proposed for camping, entertainment, and other various services that are being provided for RAGBRAI. The next steps currently are for the ACVB to receive direction from the City Council on temporary ordinance requests, in order to finalize locations and services.

The Ames City Council also opted to go against the rules by confirming all 3 readings for an ordinance which will put a moratorium – like the rental moratorium — on new structures in commercial land in the Lincoln Way area.

The City of Ames is currently working on creating new zoning standards for the Downtown Gateway Commercial area—properties located along Lincoln Way and between Grand Avenue and Duff. 

This moratorium will buy the City Council more team while they determine a plan regarding the new zoning standards for the area. 

There was also discussion on the two-year long project to “revitalize” Lincoln Way, including (but not limited to): a “mixed use” building that would include apartments, a pool, office space, a commercial plaza, residential amenities, gathering spaces, a brand new hotel building, and a free-standing drive-thru Starbucks location.

The units on the new apartment complex will be 2 bedroom units, “to better target millennials,” as recent studies have found that millennials prefer smaller units. This project is being modeled off of a similar complex done in Lincoln, Nebraska aimed toward students at the University of Nebraska, according to the developer, Michael Stessman. 

Multiple Ames residents stood up and spoke against the developments, as they will potentially bring down property value of the surrounding areas, could increase traffic, and could impact small business in the community.

Mayor John Haila called the “visionary” and expressed an interest in the plaza included that would entail entertainment, food, a jumbo-tron, and other “modern” amenities. Haila believes this to be a “great opportunity for retail and food service” in the Ames community.

Mayor Haila declared 3 proclamations at Tuesday’s meeting, one for a National Service Recognition Day April 3, 2018, one for a National Boys & Girls Clubs of Story County Week from April 9 to 13 and for a Good Neighbor Emergency Assistance Month, April 2018. 

The next meeting will take place at City Hall at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 3, and can be viewed live on Channel 12.