The Ripple Effect

It's called the ripple effect. All of downtown Dubuque is abuzz with activity and energy stemming from the promise of the coming America's River Project. From the City of Dubuque's plans to recover the brownfields areas on the other side of the Ice Harbor (Port of Dubuque), to the renovation of historic and run down buildings throughout the downtown area, Dubuque is alive again. Brownfields are areas of urban decay ripe for renovation and revitalization. They have already been developed once and are now in a state of ill repair or vacancy. Greenfields are as yet undeveloped land such as farm fields, prairie, or the like.

Reclaiming and revitalizing brownfields is vital for any mature urbanized area and is a real symbol of healthy economic growth. It also combats the problem of urban sprawl which is just now beginning in the Dubuque area. It is important to keep the vital lifeblood of downtown Dubuque pumping and growing rather than losing our city's identity in favor of strip malls and convenience stores.

The Port of Dubuque area on the north side of the harbor will receive nearly all of the attention (and money) being put forth for initial redevelopment. The city of Dubuque has not forgotten the rest of the area; however, and has long-range plans for a multiphase revitalization effort to renew a large portion of Dubuque's river bordering property. In the near future, hopes to bring you details of these plans in an additional featured area. (I guess we're going to need to make room up top for another button!) But for now, rest assured that there are indeed well-developed plans for not only the south side of the Ice Harbor, but the entire area known as downtown Dubuque.

Evidence of the forthcoming renewal of downtown is already here. The style of pavement, brickwork, and decorative lamps, benches, and waste cans along Eighth Street from Locust to Iowa Streets as well as in the Municipal Parking Lot across the street from the New Chamber of Commerce building at the corner of Third and Main, will be carried throughout the downtown area. Watch for brick-paved sidewalks, café style seating, and decorative, historically accurate lighting fixtures to adorn many of downtown Dubuque's main corridors.

The Main Street reconstruction project taking place between Fifth and Ninth streets has been a topic of much discussion for the past couple years. The Town Clock Plaza area is being returned to an open street as it once was. The idea of a pedestrian plaza was once very attractive for downtown Dubuque but has never shown success. Opening Main Street will allow access through the heart of downtown Dubuque without taking multiple turns to get from one end of Main to the other. This will straighten out the Parade route in town and allow visitors to our city to find the Third Street overpass much more easily when coming from the north side of downtown. It will also allow for economic growth, especially in the form of retail and tourist trade to spread more easily and coherently down the up the Main Street corridor.
Through a partnership with the City of Dubuque and Durrant Architects, created the Main Street Reconstruction Website. This is a resource to assist residents and others to understand the project, it's phases and purpose, as well as follow the progress of construction and ask questions about the construction effort. It features regular photographic and descriptive updates as well as feature segments detailing everything from architectural drawings of the whole area down to decorative designs for planters and bicycle racks. Now completed, you may still visit this special feature as a historical archive. Click Here and visit the site today!

Weber Paper on Old Main Street

Construction of Bricktown Brewery
The Ripple Effect has been most evident thus far in private business citing the boom of economic development on Main Street from First to Fourth Street. Often referred to as Old Main, this area has seen the addition of numerous businesses, mostly tailored toward entertainment and dining in the last year or two and more are on the way. Property values in the area have jumped as entrepreneurs are staking claims in historic buildings on both sides of the street. While some of the smaller buildings are renovating into specialty shops and high scale loft apartments like the Main Gallery and the Pepper Sprout Restaurant, the larger buildings have been purchased by development partnerships to create multi-use income centers.
Pepper Sprout Restaurant
During Remodeling
The Cooper Wagon Works is the first example of this type of redevelopment to take shape on Old Main. Home to the Bricktown Brewery and Restaurant as well as the bars The Underground, and the Stonewall, the building will eventually also feature a reception hall and two full floors of office rental space. Developers are also courting the city to do similar renovations to the structure known as the Weber Paper Building. Other recent additions to the area include the successful Busted Lift Irish Pub, which despite a recent fire, is soon to expand both upwards and the the south, The Dubuque Area Chamber of Commerce's new structure, which replaces the old Merchant's Hotel, Grape Harbor wine store, Plane Art Designs screen printers, My Backyard garden and decor shop, and more. There are also plans in the works for a bakery, another nightspot in the Ice Harbor Imporium Building, and plenty of other rumors circulating.
Developers renovate warehouse space.
The unfortuneate loss of one of lower Main Street's most popular establishments, The Silver Dollar Cantina, victim of a billowing fire on a cool autumn morning, was a setback for the revitalization of entertainment and nightlife in the area. The Chamber of Commerce had been open less than a month directly next door but was undamaged by the catastrophy. The historic fecade of the German Bank, the building the cantina resided in, was also left intact. It looks, however, that the building's interior will be rebuilt and hopefully we will have the Dollar back serving great tex-mex food again one day soon.

The Chamber Building is on the corner of Third and main, an intersection that features the bridge to the Port of Dubuque and the America's River Project. Also housing the Greater Dubuque Development Corporation and the Dubuque Welcome Center, the placement of the building is a vote of confidence for the success of the region adjacent to the Port of Dubuque. A large parking ramp has also been built behind the new Chamber building. It serves the parking needs of the many businesses opening in the lower Main Street area as well as many more still to come. It features an entrance on Main Street designed to blend into the historical look of the street.

Just two blocks west of the Chamber Building is the historic Cable Car Square District. Home to America's shortest steepest railway, it is also Dubuque's most famous congregation of specialty shops, serving the discriminating tastes of tourists. Cable Car Square has also provided wonderful gifts and relaxing afternoons to Dubuque residents for many years. Although the area has been a difficult place to open a specialty shop in the past few years, it appears poised to be one of the booming commerce areas of downtown Dubuque when the America's River tourist rush begins. Look for the storefronts along Bluff Street to become prized commodities in the near future.

Where the ripple effect will take us in the future, we do not know for sure. In many ways the America's River Project will be a "hang on for the ride and see what happens" kind of venture for business entrepreneurs. What is sure is that it will be an interesting thing to watch.

The Grand Excursion 2004

In 2004 a large group of paddlewheelers will follow in the footsteps of the 1854 Grand Excursion held 150 years earlier and make a voyage from the Quad Cities to the Twin Cities in an effort to revitalize and bring attention to the great riverfront cities of the Midwest. There was a press conference on June 21st, 2002 in Dubuque to celebrate Dubuque's and America's River's contribution and participation in this endeavor. Learn all about the excitement surrounding the Grand Excursion, Click Here!

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