Oct. 7, 2010

Map of future development.

Lane4 developers' preliminary ideas for rejuvenating Campustown are illustrated in this map. They include a small grocery and drugstore (yellow), hotel and small shops (purple), a movie theater that can be used for classrooms (orange), and open green space/parking (blue). The red block represents the future intermodal transportation facility. Future development areas are in green. Full-size map. Image courtesy of Lane4 Property Group.

Small hotel, grocery, drugstore among Campustown ideas

by Diana Pounds

A Kansas City development group offered a number of proposals for rejuvenating Campustown during community meetings last week. Among ideas floated by Lane4 Property Group were:

  • A hotel, small shops and restaurants in a new facility (SW corner of Lincoln Way and Welch Avenue)
  • A neighborhood drug and grocery store (SE corner of Lincoln Way and Welch)
  • A classroom-by-day, movie-theater-by-night structure (SW corner of Chamberlain Street and Welch)
  • More open spaces for pedestrians and easier parking for drivers

Lane4, under an agreement with the city of Ames to create a development concept for Campustown, held a series of meetings in early summer to gather information from the Ames and campus community.

Two Lane4 officials, president Owen Buckley and director of development Hunter Harris, made a second visit last week to summarize what they'd heard in the summer and present some preliminary ideas for Campustown development. Here are a few ideas discussed during the Sept. 29 public session:

Drawing more people

There's opportunity to bring more people from Ames and beyond to Campustown, the developers said. They propose broadening Campustown's appeal by populating it with small shops and restaurants and making it easier to park. One parking option under consideration is angled parking along Welch.

Open areas, safe crossings

To make Campustown more pedestrian friendly, Lane4 suggests adding open areas with sidewalk cafés and park benches. While a key goal is to ensure that walkers can safely cross Lincoln Way, developers say a raised pedestrian bridge over the busy street probably will not be among feasible options.

The hotel

The developers envision a small hotel located above a number of shops and restaurants. Harris said Lane4 officials are talking with national hotel groups, like Hilton and Marriott, about the possibilities. A Campustown hotel is expected to be popular with parents, alumni and other university visitors, Harris said. In response to a question about the future of Hotel Memorial Union, Harris said Lane4 officials would suggest that Iowa State consider eliminating the Union hotel service if a new hotel comes to Campustown.

Classrooms, movie theater

Lane4 developers propose building a six-screen movie theater, with auditorium seating ranging from 80 to 300. During the day, classes would be held in the facility. Government of the Student Body representatives attending the meeting said GSB was interested in the movie-classroom idea and has put on hold plans to lease and operate Varsity Theater, which closed in 2009. There's precedent for combination movie-classroom facilities. Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, holds classes in 12 auditoriums in a commercial movie theater complex.

Grocery and drugstore

The Campustown of yesteryear provided more goods and services, Buckley said. People could even buy shoes and get watches fixed there. The proposed neighborhood grocery and drugstore would help bring more staples, things like Band-Aids, pens and aspirin, back to the area, he said.

Bars belong

In response to a question, Buckley acknowledged that bars are a big part of Campustown.
"We understand that college students like to have beer and pizza and hang out," he said. He added Campustown bars are an attraction for alumni, as well as students.

ISU employees in Campustown

The developers suggest that ISU relocate some of its offices to the Campustown area, perhaps occupying space on upper levels of the proposed grocery/drugstore facilities. By bringing jobs to Campustown, Iowa State would assist in bringing more people to the area to patronize shops, Harris said.

Complementing the local look

In answer to a question, the developers said new facilities must complement Campustown's character. Campustown shouldn't look like South Duff, Buckley said. It mostly should be populated by local shops and boutiques. However, Buckley added, a large retail operation in Campustown could help bring customers to the smaller shops.

What's next?

Lane4 will:
  • Encourage community feedback and participation
  • Work with interested hotel and business operators on leasing and marketing agreements
  • Develop, with the city and university, a master plan
  • Discuss new ideas for Campustown with current businesses in the area
  • Develop project costs