Changing a City’s Narrative

The City of Maquoketa, Iowa, has a positive story to tell. Its residents showed their optimism when they supported pro-revitalization candidates in the November 2015 local elections.1- Perspective page 8

Maquoketa’s downtown, however, was in need of definition. More than seven years earlier, a fire destroying five buildings had left a hole in the city’s downtown. Its streets and sidewalks needed to be replaced and efforts were underway to attract new businesses.

As the IIW liaison with the city since 1997, I have had the opportunity to see and contribute to its plans for renewal. The city chose to address the full downtown area and construction began in March, with completion anticipated in December 2016. This includes approximately nine city blocks on Main Street, and side streets within the downtown area.1- Plan page 6

Through the years, several consultants offered a variety of options and scale for reconstruction. In 2014, IIW took a landscape architect’s conceptual plan and developed construction plans for a portion of the downtown. When bids came in high in February 2015, the City opted to expand the project to include the full downtown for economies-of-scale. We also repackaged some design elements to optimize costs.

Facing a tight construction schedule, we reviewed bids carefully and worked with the contractor to ensure the project could be completed as bid and on time.

The project is now underway. It includes a streetscape design that visually marks the district with crosswalk pavers and coordinated site furnishings such as light poles with flags and banners. As additional budgets become available, trash receptacles and bike racks will be added.

Other project features:

  • Easy-to-construct planter/bench structures feature smooth and rough limestone bases, including Mo-Keta limestone quarried from Jackson County.
  • Sidewalk bump-out nodes that enhance pedestrian safety. The nodes create shorter crosswalks and street access that is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Traffic signals are set back to align with building faces so that motorists see pedestrians more easily.
  • Turn lanes for Main Street and its cross-streets enhance safety.

While the project may only be nine blocks long, it is quite complex. We are working closely with utility representatives to make improvements to the water, sewer, energy, and communications systems. Weekly progress and coordination meetings give the contractor, City representatives, business and property owners, and residents the opportunity to better coordinate and minimize disruption during construction.

In spite of its complexity, the streetscape project trumps a simple sidewalk and street replacement. Citizens asked for a memorable district – one that would encourage new development. This streetscape project is Maquoketa’s opportunity to forge a new identity.