La Porte City is a rural community of just over 2,200, nestled between the Waterloo-Cedar Falls and Cedar Rapids metropolitan areas. Recognizing a critical need to rejuvenate its downtown area and remain regionally viable, City leaders embarked upon a multi-phase endeavor to do just that, with MSA as its project partner throughout all phases of the journey. The first project was the development of a Downtown Revitalization Plan in 2013, which outlined areas of opportunity and improvement, helped restore historic downtown building façades, and secure critical funding for the most significant of all improvements: the transformation of Main Street.
This $4.5-million rehabilitation would reconstruct four blocks of Main Street through the community’s downtown. Utilizing conceptual renderings prepared by MSA, City leaders were able to gather public feedback and support for the project, ultimately leading to a successful grant acquisition of $750,000 from the local gaming association.
The four blocks of Main Street needing construction were due. Bricks had been frequently removed, replaced or patched over the years, and by 2020, the street was showing significant signs of deterioration with broken curbs, heaving bricks and rusting light poles. The project replaced the brick streets with new full-width PCC pavers to replicate the historic appearance of the 1908 clay originals, added new sidewalks and lighting, bump-outs at intersections to improve crossing safety and ADA compliance, reconstructed the City’s public parking lot and developed an empty lot on Main Street into a plaza area for community gatherings. Below grade, water and electric utilities were also replaced, along with a new storm sewer collection and conveyance system.
At the same time, Wolf Creek — located one block from the commercial district — had become more of an eyesore than an asset, with overgrown banks and a crumbling trail. MSA worked with the City to transform the Wolf Creek area in tandem with the Main Street project. Results include the development of a new parking lot to accompany a kayak/canoe launch, benches, decorative lighting, and a 30’ x 40’ open pavilion to host gatherings and community events. A new walking path was also created, connecting Wolf Creek Park to the downtown business district as well as to the Cedar Valley Nature Trail, a 67-mile recreational trail that runs through several small towns and attracts thousands of users each year.
The Main Street Rehabilitation and Redevelopment project not only accomplished much-needed capital improvements to the Main Street district, but provided the community and visitors with a pleasant and safe place to meet, shop and enjoy outdoor recreation. In addition, it will make the La Porte City downtown district a source of community pride and serve as an incentive for prospective businesses and residents to choose La Porte City as their new home.
The La Porte City Main Street rehabilitation project was selected by the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) of Iowa to receive a 2022 Engineering Achievement Award in the category of Special Projects.
Jake Huck, PE
Regional Manager - Public Works