City staff last November surveyed and analyzed the downtown and near downtown and came up with 26 or so possible sites for the proposed multimillion-dollar Intermodal Transit Facility.
The new building, which had been planned to be built twice before on two different sites, now was an orphan looking for yet a new, third site.
By the end of that City Council meeting last November, District 3 council member Jerry McGrane had succeeded in adding yet another site to the long list of sites under consideration.
It was that additional site, not any of the sites on the original, lengthy list of 26 that the City Council this week selected as the one to build the new Intermodal Transit Facility.
“It was the only logical place to put it,” McGrane said Thursday after the council vote.
The chosen site is in the 900 block of Third Street SE across the street from the empty Osada apartment building, which was once a multistory warehouse and which a local developer is now readying to convert into the Bottleworks condominiums.
Now on the spot for the new Intermodal is Loftus Distributing Co. and some old warehouse buildings.
The owner of the property, which has an assessed value at $472,205, has been called a willing seller. The cost to demolish the existing buildings is estimated at $400,000.
McGrane credited Sam Shea, the city’s long-range planning coordinator, with taking an interest in the Loftus site and council member Brian Fagan for liking the fact that the site has an active rail line running by it.
The idea for an Intermodal is that it is supposed to be a hub for all kinds of transit. The facility will handle city buses, Neighborhood Transit Service vans, LIFTs buses and intercity buses, and as McGrane says, one day passenger trains from Iowa City and even Waterloo may stop there.
As for ideas, the idea that a bus depot needs to be in the heart of a downtown is no longer thought a good one. Depots are places for people to transfer to other buses, they are not destinations.
McGrane likes that the Loftus site is near the downtown, just up the street from the proposed Third Street SE arts and cultural district and also near the former Sinclair meatpacking site, which the city one day intends to see redeveloped.
McGrane, a retiree and recent past president of the Oakhill Jackson Neighborhood Association, makes it known that he is not a part of what he says is the “in-group” on the City Council.
No matter, on this one, the idea he floated for the Intermodal site is the one that now has gained traction over two dozen others.
“I don’t go to pushing people to do things,” McGrane said. “Sometimes you plant the seed and see how far it grows. And it grew pretty good.”
Building the Intermodal will take some time. There are “federal hoops” to jump through, the city’s Shea says.
The plan is to convert the existing Ground Transportation Center bus depot into another use. The City Council and downtown leaders want First Street SE to be a pedestrian-friendly spot, and the current bus depot makes a stretch of the street another but that.