Update: In June, the Ames city council declined to give Lane4 more time to come up with a workable plan for Campustown redevelopment but said that the city may approach the Kansas City development company in the future.
Campustown needs some love. But it does not need to be demolished in order to be improved.
In the months since the Kansas City development company LANE4 unveiled its dramatic proposal for reinventing Campustown, the discussion has fallen into the old familiar pattern that pits students and full-time residents against one another. Many ISU students feel that LANE4’s proposal – which calls for almost all of Campustown to be torn down and then rebuilt to accommodate big-box stores, a hotel, and grocery store, among other things – would take away what they love most about Campustown. And many full-time Ames residents feel that the proposal would be a positive step toward improving the way that Campustown looks, generating more revenue and bringing in new businesses.
Indeed, many non-student residents of Ames feel alienated by Campustown. Although the district is not “all bars and tattoo parlors,” as it is often called by its detractors, it’s understandable that many residents of Ames do not feel welcome there. On weekend nights, the streets of Campustown are often not safe. Some of the buildings need renovations. Many of the buildings need upgrades to their exteriors. And there are only a handful of family-friendly entertainment options.
On the other hand, Campustown’s proximity to the ISU campus designates it as a business district that caters to the student population. There are dozens of thriving businesses that are beloved and well-used by students. Every successful business adds value to the community and deserves the respect of the city. And there are a wealth of unique, locally owned shops that are neither bars nor tattoo parlors. And, by the way, bars and tattoo parlors are fully legitimate businesses and have every right to operate in Campustown.
We applaud the city for taking Campustown seriously enough to want to make a major investment in the district. But LANE4’s proposals are far too drastic. If all the buildings in Campustown were so unsafe that they needed to be demolished, that would be one thing. But they are not. Some individual properties need major upgrades, and some specific properties may need to be rebuilt, but it is absolutely unnecessary to destroy three blocks’ worth of buildings. The businesses that occupy those buildings deserve the respect of the city. Imagine operating a business in Campustown – working for years to build your business, investing countless hours in a labor of love while simultaneously contributing to the tax revenue that keeps this city running – only to be told that, although you’ve done nothing wrong, you must evacuate your building because Campustown needs a hotel. That does not respect local businesses and would create a dangerous precedent.
Campustown can be substantially improved without being destroyed and without disenfranchising current business owners. Incremental investments in the district will also be far less costly for the city. In this issue, we’ve outlined a few ideas that would make major changes to Campustown without the full-scale demolition of the district.
Ames is a community. The needs and interests of students and full-time residents are equally worthy of consideration. Let’s find a way to make Campustown more welcoming for residents without making it unappealing to students. And let’s find a way to improve upon the look and the diversity of the district without disrespecting current business owners.
[Editor's note: The Space for Ames, which until recently was a part of the Ames Progressive, is in Campustown and would be affected if Lane4's proposal were approved in its current form.]
A Different Vision for Campustown: Embrace What’s There, Don’t Slash and Burn
A Different Vision for Campustown: Why Not a Slow and Steady Approach?
A Different Vision for Campustown: Reconsider the Varsity Theatre
A Different Vision for Campustown: Instead of Demolition, Beautification