Updated Dubuque Millwork District plan sought to help guide growth

Dubuque leaders seek to update the vision for the city’s Millwork District.

City Council members recently unanimously approved seeking bids for a consultant that would update the existing Historic Millwork District Master Plan, which provides a framework and vision for the future development of the area bordered by East 12th, White and East Fifth streets and U.S. 61/151.

Working with a consultant, officials intend to update many aspects of the plan to adapt to changes in trends in the district since the plan was adopted in 2009, including examining transportation, parking needs and land use.

City staff originally presented the proposal to seek bids to City Council members at their Jan. 18 meeting, but following outcry from residents and property owners of the Millwork District, city staff were directed to seek additional stakeholder comment.

During the recent meeting, council members praised the collaboration between city staff and Millwork District stakeholders.

“I know it took a few weeks to get this all established,” said Council Member Susan Farber. “I cannot say enough about this collaborative effort.”

City documents state $50,000 is budgeted to get the plan updated, with plans of hiring a consultant in May. An updated plan is expected to come before City Council members for approval in October or November.

City Economic Development Director Jill Connors said some aspects of updating the plan will occur in conjunction with other city projects.

She pointed to the city’s transportation services department hiring a consultant to create a Smart Parking and Mobility Management Plan, which will establish how the city invests in downtown parking and transportation in the future, including the Millwork District.

Connors said changes in parking demand in the Millwork District in the past few years require the city to reexamine its approach there. The consultant hired to update the district’s master plan also will be asked to work with the consultant developing the city’s downtown parking plan.

“We know all of the stakeholders in the Millwork District will be interested in both of those plans,” Connors said.

Since the original Millwork District master plan was developed, the historic downtown area has seen substantial development.

Some of the buildings to receive major renovations were highlighted specifically in the original plan, including the Caradco, Novelty Iron Works and Voices buildings. There has been more than $120 million of public and private investment in the Millwork District, creating 164 rental residential units, with about 50 more in development, and 36 commercial and retail spaces, according to the city.

A total of 619 jobs have been added to the Millwork District since redevelopment began. That development continues to this day.

Real-estate developer Gronen, for example, is in the midst of restoring the Rouse & Dean Foundry building, 990 Washington St., with plans of eventually putting in a new tenant.

However, several sections of the district identified in the original plan as needing improvement remain undeveloped.

The southern portion of the district, containing the Jeld-Wen, Kirby and Farley & Loetscher buildings, located on East Seventh Street, are three large structures that remain undeveloped.

John Gronen, president of Gronen, said the updated plan will play a vital role in determining what projects should be prioritized in order to unite the efforts of the city, private companies and nonprofits to continue the development of the district.

“There is more work to be done,” he said. “It’s really important that we activate people and get them involved in where we are going.”

The request for proposals specifically lists several areas of concern among Millwork District residents and business owners that would be addressed in the plan update, including parking, handling of refuse, lack of green space, sustainable practices, transit and access to food markets. The proposal also highlights the city’s commitment to several businesses to provide adequate parking and pedestrian connections.

Connors said the updated plan will provide a vision for the entire district in addressing these issues and will allow it to continue its growth.

“It’s about the Millwork District as a whole,” she said. “We are looking at the potential uses of the spaces that are left.”