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The city of LeClaire wants to create a Marina District to help it map out plans for capitalizing on its riverfront. Besides the city's Buffalo Bill Museum and the Twilight, there are little offerings on its riverfront. 

LeClaire residents, business and property owners and others got their first look Tuesday night at some of the possibilities for redeveloping their riverfront and extending the downtown streetscaping. 

"You will not like any (one) alternative, you will like pieces of all of them," Jason Stangland, a principal with the Madison, Wis., office of SMITHGROUP, told the crowd of nearly 50 people.

The consulting firm was hired as part of a team along with Quad-City engineering firm Veenstra & Kimm to develop plans for Phase II of the city's streetscaping and creation of a new Marina District

Stangland, SMITHGROUP's waterfront practice director, said the ideas are the product of focus groups with various stakeholders including a steering committee as well as a public meeting held last month. He said the plan "looks through four lenses: ecology, economics, society (social) and human spirit." 

"It's about getting people down there and a place for people to activate with the riverfront and about preserving the river views," he told the full house at LeClaire City Hall. 

The three initial alternatives included:

  • Garden concept, which would make very minimal changes to the current riverfront. Ideas included a wetlands, a memorial garden on the levee, a plaza for the Twilight riverboat and Buffalo Bill Museum and a riverfront recreation path.
  • Urban concept, which calls for the most dramatic changes. Ideas included bringing downtown and new commercial development right down onto the riverfront. It also included an urban promenade, a beachfront and pedestrian walkway.
  • River's Edge concept, which would create activated spaces along the river's edge such as an amphitheater, a riverfront trail, a boardwalk, transient boat docks, a splash pad and an expanded Buffalo Bill Museum. 

During the 90-minute meeting, attendees were invited to vote using color-coded stickers on the ideas they liked and did not like.

"It will be interested to see how it comes out," Mayor Ray Allen said during the voting. "People are really engaged."  

After the voting process, Stangland said it was clear there was no support for a wetlands, a playground, a pedestrian bridge over the highway or building the bike trail alongside Cody Road. There also was strong opposition to the urban plan's idea for building new developments in front of the existing businesses.

"The museum is going to stay where it's at," Strangland said of the results. 

That pleased the museum's executive director Bob Schiffke, who said the museum and the Lonestar riverboat need to stay together because their history is tied together. "I wouldn't mind having outdoor space for the museum," he said of another idea proposed.

Leo Foley, the city's engineer, said the next step will be to apply for a federal Build Grant to help the city pursue some of the projects.  

At the LeClaire City Council meeting Monday night, he received the council's informal approval to apply for the grant before the final concepts can be presented to the council because the application deadline falls before the next council meeting.

"Once we get the Build Grant others (grants) will fall in place," he said, adding the city stands a good chance of receiving one of the grants awarded to Iowa.

Previously known as a TIGER grant, Foley said Iowa typically gets up to three of the grants. 

"All the (area) congressional staff are saying it is going to get funded way more than it has in the past," said Foley, a partner with Veenstra & Kimm. The Rock Island firm has helped Dubuque and Burlington secure the grants previously in amounts of $9 million and $16.1 million, respectively. 

At Tuesday's informational meeting, Foley said LeClaire's application could be for as much as a $40 million project, but not all of it would be the marina district and streetscaping.

He said the city needs to include other projects it has planned in order to be competitive and show its commitment and cost-sharing plans. "That's how the game is played," he said.

"You may not get funded this year, but that master plan will bring funding in," Foley said. 

The consulting team will deliver a final proposal Aug. 5 to the city council, which will vote on it later in August. 

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