The 2023 ACEC/Iowa Engineering Excellence Awards winning projects in the Special Projects Category:

Special Projects Grand Place Award (1st Place in Category)

Firm: Snyder & Associates
Client/Owner:  City of Cedar Falls
Project: Cedar Falls Downtown 

Nationally recognized as a Great American Main Street, a registered Historic District, certified as an Arts and Cultural District, and nominated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as a “distinctive destination,” Downtown Cedar Falls has made many correct political, economic, and design decisions to create a successful downtown story. However, with the increase in recent development, a streetscape over two decades old, and aging public utilities, the City of Cedar Falls hired Snyder & Associates to revitalize the overall downtown streetscape, utility infrastructure and reconstruct several blocks of City street. The project involved coordination with City staff, the Community Main Street Business Organization, the public, as well as railroad and utility companies. 

Three concept plans were created at the early stages of planning to garner feedback from stakeholders. “Celebrate the River” was a theme derived from the nearby Cedar River that extracted imagery from the river and incorporated it into design elements. “Peal and
Replace” was a more conservative approach to keep a similar design but use new materials. Ultimately, the “Traditional and Contemporary Blend” was the design concept that proved most appealing.

We worked closely with Community Main Street and the City to develop a plan for the new streetscape along with the reconstruction of downtown streets. The coordination also included selection of materials and amenities that would reflect the historical character of the district, limit long-term maintenance, and support a design that would unite new development into the district. Overall, the project includes eleven downtown city blocks of updated utility infrastructure, five blocks of full street reconstruction and over 2-acres of redesigned streetscape/hardscape paver areas. The hardscape improvements include the Peter Melendy Park and revitalized and redeveloped areas of downtown.  

The Cedar Falls Peter Melendy Park is located at the north end of the Downtown Streetscape and Reconstruction project limits. The City recently completed a floodwall and levee improvement project as this Park is located along the banks of the Cedar River. With these recent infrastructure improvements, the City and community had a goal to enhance how residents and visitors to the Park and the river. The existing concrete sidewalk was replaced with pavers utilizing the downtown provides connection between the businesses and the park. The paver walkway areas provide connection to the river, the river walk, the “Gateway to the Trails” sculpture, landscaping, activities and events in addition to the local businesses. 

The River Place Plaza was a private project that helped revitalize and redevelop a portion of the downtown and the River Place neighborhood. Part of what this development strove to offer was a “freedom to live an urban lifestyle in a small city.” The City worked with this development group to provide connection to their river walk, the downtown businesses and the development features being added. We worked with the City and the developer to tie the traditional and contemporary blend of hardscape and streetscape components into the is block of downtown (i.e. E. 2nd St from Main to State St). The project updates included replacement of all sidewalks with pavers and ADA upgrades. Not only are the pedestrian travel paths no longer concrete, but the detectable warnings also utilize clay pavers.  

With this project revitalizing the Cedar Falls Downtown area there were many older buildings and some in the historic district that required vibration monitoring during construction to ensure their integrity was maintained. Our design took these buildings into consideration and smaller, less impactful construction equipment and methods were required in some areas. Additionally, some of the older buildings were found to have abandoned coal chutes that would be exposed during either the reconstruction of streets and utilities or the replacement of the streetscape features. The abandonment of the coal chutes required excavation, removal of walls, reinforcing and placement of new concrete walls along with drainage improvements. Additionally, there were stairs to lower levels of buildings that needed to be replaced in some areas. Our structural engineers worked with the project management team and the local businesses to ensure that the integrity of these important buildings and access to them was maintained during the construction and into the future.

The project included reconstruction of five city blocks in the downtown of Cedar Falls. With numerous businesses being impacted by the project it was essential to develop a design that would allow for utilities to be upgraded, the street to be reconstructed, the duration of the road closures to be minimized all while allowing vehicular and pedestrian access to remain intact as much and as long as possible. Significant coordination with utility providers during the design process was completed to ensure that conflicts were avoided wherever possible and relocations were clearly identified and completed efficiently. The staging plan required reconstruction of one block of City street at a time. There were special commercial access requirements included for pedestrians along the roadway that included fencing to separate roadway construction from pedestrian routes, installation of temporary walking paths and temporary curb ramps. 

With this construction impacting more than 70 business and new buildings being constructed adjacent to the project, coloration with City staff, members of the community, business owners and elected officials was critical. For this project to be successful a significant public outreach plan was needed and completed. The Community Main Street Organization was included from the beginning of the project. A representative from this group was included on the project management team, attended design meetings and relayed information and updates back to the members of the group. There were multiple public meetings held in the downtown and were well attended by residents, business owners and elected officials. Construction options were presented and input from the community was utilized to help make design decisions. The coordination was also essential for understanding how the project would impact the businesses, what access was critical and how the construction could be done effectively and efficiently while allowing the businesses to continue to operate and be successful. From this information a detailed staging plan was developed to maximize business access. Information was added to the City’s project website throughout construction and Contractor coordination with the businesses was completed. Downtown Streetscape and Reconstruction | Cedar Falls, IA - Official Website

The final project was completed over three construction seasons. Business access was successfully maintained. Five blocks of City streets were reconstructed along with the installation of new utilities. The improvements revitalized the downtown area with new and enhanced features while maintaining the historic components of the area. The project has been a success for the community and helps Cedar Falls continue to have a thriving and vibrant downtown area for those that live, work and visit this area.



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