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What’s the Deal with the Downtown Reconstruction Project?

Aug 17, 2018 | Keeping PACE with Pella

There has been a lot of talk about a “Back-To-Brick” or Downtown Reconstruction project going around. Let’s bring you up to speed with this project.

For those who do not know, there are 100-year-old infrastructures beneath our downtown’s streets that are in need of updating. While we deal with the reconstruction of what’s below our downtown, we are also going to take the opportunity to redesign what lies above. The focus will be improving sidewalks, streets, alleys, over-all design aesthetic, and looking at the potential of putting in a public restroom. The City of Pella has contracted with RDG Planning & Design out of Des Moines to help us with the design planning process of this project.

Over August 14 and 15, RDG Planning & Design held a design studio where the public could stop by and oversee the concepts and details for the Downtown Streetscape Design Plan. The open sessions gave the public and stakeholders the chance to give their input and work alongside the RDG team.

Design concepts that were shared included lighting, sidewalks, alleys, parking, public restroom concepts, and so on.

Moving forward, RDG plans to have real concepts and designs drawn out by end of September, with a finalized draft ready to present to City Council in November.
While it is fun and exciting to dream up new concepts for our downtown, we also understand it is a little daunting and raises some questions of concern. There are a lot of unknowns going into this project, however there are some certainties:

  1. While the past survey and design studios are strictly design and function oriented, this project is primarily about updating 100-year-old plumbing and sewage systems that lie beneath the downtown streets. It’s a project where if we waited too much longer, we might have an even bigger issue on our hands—let’s avoid that!
  2. Downtown will not be shut down or inaccessible. This is an incremental construction project and will be done in multiple phases. The priority will be to maintain all accessibility and functionality that we need in our downtown while construction is underway.
  3. Construction will not mean an end to successful business or touristic appeal. The PACE Alliance plans on making the most of this temporary situation, by calling for creative perspectives. One notable example of this was done by the City of Montevallo in Alabama. While they were dealing with a similar construction situation, they encouraged business practices such as customer appreciation days, “Wine about it” Wednesdays, construction themed sales such as “orange items slashed,” and more. Other ideas could include “Hard hat nights” after 5:00 PM, throwing a block party or “special sale” day at the conclusion of each phase, and so on. We might as well have fun with it!

Stay tuned for more updates regarding the Downtown Streetscape Reconstruction process.

The image included with this post indicates the footprint of the construction project, which includes sidewalks, streets and alleys. Photo credit to the Pella Chronicle.