TH EXCLUSIVE: Local business, property owners express concerns over Central Avenue plan

Central Avenue master plan meetings

The City of Dubuque’s Economic Development Department will hold a stakeholder drop-in meeting to discuss the Central Avenue Corridor Streetscape Master Plan from 4 to 6 p.m. on Monday, June 27, at 1722 Central Ave. 

The city will hold a design presentation for the Central Avenue Corridor Streetscape Master Plan from 3 to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, June 28, at Multicultural Family Center. 

Both events are open to the public. 

Officials are updating a plan to revitalize a major downtown roadway in Dubuque, but some nearby business and property owners are concerned about the direction of the project.

The Central Avenue Corridor Streetscape Master Plan provides an overall vision on how to renovate and redevelop a portion of Central Avenue to spur economic growth.

The original plan presented in 2019 called for converting Central from 11th to 22nd streets from a one-way road to a two-way thoroughfare, reducing the street width to expand the size of sidewalks and greenery and closing East 18th Street at its intersection with Central to construct a plaza.

Dave Lyons, sustainable innovation consultant for Greater Dubuque Development Corp., said efforts to transform Central were put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, but officials now seek to spur investment and reignite interest in the project by updating the plan.

“We are trying to refine a plan that was very general to begin with,” he said. “We are looking for an opportunity to jump-start that vision of investment on Central.”

As part of the redesign process, Lyons said, consultant RDG Planning & Design is gathering input from stakeholders on Central regarding what it should look like in the future.

Several nearby business and property owners said they have significant concerns with the original plan and believe major changes to it are needed.

“I greatly appreciate what the city is trying to do, but I have some worries about where the project might be going,” said Craig Beytien, owner of the property at 1838 Central Ave.

Beytien and other property owners specifically expressed concern over the project’s impact on parking, particularly pointing to the proposal to create a new plaza at the East 18th Street and Central Avenue intersection.

Tim Hitzler is the founder of Key City Creative Center, 1781 White St., and the owner of multiple properties along the Central corridor. He said as many as 10 parking spaces could be eliminated in order to create the plaza, a move he believes would only hurt local businesses.

“If we are planning on renovating this area and bringing in more business and housing, that will require more parking,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense to eliminate parking.”

Ryan Dies, owner of Devour Cafe, 1798 Central Ave., said he does not believe the city needs to invest in the roadway and argued that the construction would drive away customers.

“All of that construction and development is going to hurt my business,” he said. “I just won’t have anywhere for people to park.”

Not all Central Avenue stakeholders reached by the Telegraph Herald are opposed to the plan.

Chris Richards, who owns multiple buildings along the corridor, said he supports the efforts by the city and believes that any issues that property owners have with the plan can be resolved.

“I see nothing but positives there,” Richards said. “The idea is to make Central Avenue more appealing for businesses and residents alike.”

Hitzler said local officials working on the plan redesign have been receptive to his comments, but he still is worried that those concerns won’t be reflected in the finalized plan.

“I just hope this isn’t a predetermined thing,” he said. “I hope it’s a process where people are heard.”

Lyons said designers and economic development officials will work to present new designs that address local business and property owners’ concerns, noting that a stakeholder meeting and a design presentation are scheduled to be held early next week to further gain input on how the plan could be modified.

“We have heard concerns about the decrease in parking,” Lyons said. “We will work on designs that will show how we can make space more flexible yet not lose any parking.”

Lyons said the intention is to present an updated Central Avenue master plan to City Council members later this summer.