The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

Vision for Sinclair site is mixed use with a lot of housing, discussion of New Bohemia reveals

In City Hall, New Bohemia, Sinclair site, Tom Podzimek on April 17, 2008 at 8:55 pm

This week the City Council got behind the renovation of Third Street SE between Eighth and 14th avenues SE, the heart of the New Bohemia area and the center of a hoped-for arts and cultural district.

The entire street will be torn up, transformed from a 48-foot-wide street to a 43-foot one, with wider sidewalks and other amenities.

In agreeing to the street renovation, city staff and the City Council set aside their reservations of 18 months ago about converting what is an arterial street and sole access into the former Sinclair redevelopment site into a less-wide avenue in an arts district.

 In the discussion this week, John Bender, president of the engineering firm, Ament Inc., noted that 4,000 vehicles a day use this stretch of Third Street SE, and by 2040, as many as 13,500 could be using the street.

Any time traffic counts exceed 10,000 vehicles a day, thoughts turn from two-lane streets to four-lane ones, Bender noted. But the thought is that a two-lane street will continue to work even with the projected traffic counts.

In passing, Bender noted that the current city thinking on the 30-acre Sinclair meatpacking site is that it will be developed mostly as a residential site. He referred to comments made by Sam Shea, the city’s long-range planning coordinator.

On Thursday, Shea said the idea is that the Sinclair site will likely be a mixed-use development of residential with some commercial and maybe even some retail. It would be a place where people live, work and play, he said.

Shea said projected traffic counts in 2040, if they came to pass, likely would make a two-lane Third Street SE in New Bohemia a “pretty busy street” at times. An arts district might not mind some traffic, he added.

At the same time, he noted that the future could bring other traffic changes, including another access into the Sinclair site.

But that is in the future.

Giant debate looms before the construction crews hit Third Street SE in New Bohemia, which is a piece of the Oak Hill Neighborhood.

Firstly, there is a dispute over design. New Bohemia advocates favor a modern street design, while some of the property owners favor of historic look like that in Czech Village across the Cedar River.

The city intends to bring on a facilitator to find some common ground.

Additionally, property owners now apparently will be required to contribute to the cost of the project, which was put at $3.4 million a few years ago.

The earlier Third Street SE plan, which was part of the failed Cedar Bend/Vision Iowa project, had the city paying for the cost. The argument had been that the historical and arts and cultural center would become a regional tourist draw.

That notion, though, was before the city lost its state Vision Iowa money for the project, before the city changed its form of government, before it hired a city manager and before it elected its current City Council.

This council this week said it wanted to see property owners along the street contribute to an investment that surely will make their properties more valuable.

Council member Tom Podzimek said he, too, would love to see government spending out on his street, Maplewood Drive NE, if he didn’t have to contribute.


  1. Reality check needed, if gasoline is going to top $4.00 a gallon this summer in 2008 what will the price, assuming gasoline is even avaiable, be in 2040? We are deeply into a paradigm shift at the moment, and if anything, it would be just as likely the street will be filled with bicycles or a electric trolley car.
    As to the Sinclair site, it might be 2040 before the pollution and toxic material has disappeared. If it was going to be safe enough to actually use I only have Cedar Lake as an example, and that pollution is still there but buried deeply enough in the muck the fish can’t easily get to it anymore. That only took, what, twenty-five years?
    As to “finding common ground” on Third street, if you check, you will find the design phase for public comment was open to all comers when it took place, those who had a problem with the design should have attended the meetings and voiced their concern then, not after the fact. The ones who had a problem sent a list of about 30 signers on a petition to the council, it was countered by over 130 other petitioners who found the design to their liking. To give the nay-sayers a platform would send a message that every decision that doesn’t satisfy those who refuse to take part can get a second shot at changing things. If you want everything to look like Czech Village around you, then maybe that is where you needed to locate in the first place. If you wanted the plan to be modified that is when they should have attended the meetings like everybody else.

  2. I think the City Council has decided the Oak Hill Neighborhood will be a think of the past. The City doesn’t like the make up of the housing in the area. The Bottleworks Project is the beginning of the end for the Oak Hill Neighborhood. I also agree if the Iowa Iron Works and Sinclair sites can ever be cleared of all the buried toxic waste the City will open the coffers to help Private Developers with special tax benefits etc. to build a new Oak Hill Image.

  3. I’m sure Steve has no idea what the environmental reports say about the Sinclair site, so don’t take his word as gospel.

    If the City would continue with the housing and neighborhood development program they signed on to early on after the change in form of government, things would look much better for them. Accomplish, and stop just talking about it.

    A big roller, and someone who had access to the discussions the entire tiem they were going on in the neighborhood, decided he didn;t like the tone of the conversations and just sat back until after decisions were made, and attempted to hijack them. His actions were completely unfair, against the open exchange spirit of the charettes that were held in the first place, and should be completely discounted.

    Finally, you can develop on property with subterranean hazardous waste issues…you just can’t dig anything up.

  4. Where are developers? As Mayor we had several groups interested in building in the area…. Lets go after them and roll out the red carpet. Housing, busineses, retail resturants, arts, farmers market areas, Destinations for CR folks to enjoy. Mayor and P1 step up and unveil the exciting opportunities.

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