This article was first published in the Times-Republican on June 6, 2019.
The Downtown Marshalltown Master Plan draft was unveiled to the public Wednesday. The concepts presented are six months in the making, encompassing ways to revamp the area following the July 2018 tornado.
The region spans Third Street to Fifth Avenue and Madison Street to Grant Street/Byron Street/Bromley Street, focusing on commercial, residential, industrial and open spaces.
“The plan is to present the Master Plan at Monday’s city council meeting for final acceptance,” City Housing and Community Development Director Michelle Spohnheimer said. “Whenever an individual project would come forward, those have to be approved if they require city funds, such as streetscaping, public improvements, etc. It would have to be approved by the council, project by project. This Master Plan gives us a guide, especially as we talk to private developers coming in and we have the opportunity to say what our vision is.”
Project Manager Bob Kost of SEH Inc. has been working closely to develop the Master Plan.
“The council may give blanket acceptance or offer some suggestions for modifications,” Kost said. “But funding is already going on and people have been applying for grants. (The work) is happening but it’s not all on the city. (The master plan) really tries to lay out strategies and give our recommendations that bring the private sector hand in glove with the public sector.”
The area spanning East Madison Street and South Third Avenue could provide new dining options, rental apartments, places for artists to work and live, food truck space and plaza space.
A Library Corner Park, to be built on a vacant lot at the southeast corner of Linn and South First Streets, would be multi-functional for library patrons, downtown residents and employees and a spot to enjoy the outdoors. It would include a fountain, shade structure, rain gardens/flower beds, shade trees, interactive public art playground, parking and more.
Nine places in downtown Marshalltown have been identified as potential spots for pocket parks, including full sun corner lots, under the Center Street bridge, surrounded by two walls, etc. These spaces could play host to concerts, kids programming, play spaces and more.
Streamlining downtown parking options is a key component of the master plan. It includes encouraging the development of underground and above ground parking, requiring bike parking facilities to be included in all new downtown development projects. Changes would also simplify on-street parking restrictions to 2-hour parking from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
One-way street conversions
The plan encourages converting Church and Linn Streets from one-way to two-way streets. The plan promotes conducting a traffic engineering study to access the impact on traffic and turning in downtown, and see if modifications to traffic control and signage is needed. In addition, it is encouraged to maintain current parking options in that area and use a “yield-street” configuration in the most narrow part of the streets, outside the downtown area.
Defined as a concept that has the potential to have a positive economic impact within an area, catalysts projects can gain funding through the Community Catalyst Building Remediation Program.
North pocket neighborhood cottage homes
Defined as a “neighborhood within a neighborhood,” the goal is to cluster homes in close proximity to one another and include common green space/garden space. The homes would range between 800 and 1,400 square feet and be between 6-10 units per acre. This could span the areas along South Fourth in the Opportunity Zone.
Concluding thoughts presented in the Master Plan draft include redeveloping the area with a mix of renovated and new buildings with a variety of new temporary and permanent public gathering and green spaces.
The concept of “many hands on the plan” was important to those involved in designing the Master Plan. Engagement activities included in the six-month planning saw the input of over 1,500 people through:
• Online community survey
• Online wikimapping survey
• Online housing survey
• Five downtown steering committee meetings
• Four focus group meetings
• Four-day community planning charette in February 2019
• Twelve confidential interviews
• Interactive project website
• Wednesday’s open houses
The Downtown Master plan was jointly funded by the Martha-Ellen Tye Foundation and the U.S. Economic Development Administration – Economic Adjustment Assistance/Opportunity Zone Program.
For more information, and to view the Downtown Marshalltown Draft Plan, visit www.downtownmarshalltown.com.