Wheels Turning for Ames Downtown Development Project

AMES, Iowa  --  An abandoned gas station could be ground zero for downtown redevelopment in Ames. The gas station sits on a half block of property that the city wants to partner with a developer on, adding 22,000 square feet of commercial space, an open plaza area, and 250-300 apartments south of the train tracks.

“Ames has always had a traditional core main street downtown and we have a lot of thriving small businesses there, and we don’t really have space for new interesting uses to come into downtown,” said Kelly Diekmann, Director of Planning and Housing for the City of Ames.

The hope is that they'll be able to also create a city parking garage on the north side of the tracks and connect the two with a skywalk.

“We often have this barrier feeling about the railroad, and to be able to get across that differently would be exciting for everybody,” said Diekmann.

The goal for the city on a larger level is to make the area a destination and provide those who call Ames home year-round a place to go, keeping their money local.

“I think what we’re looking to build upon here is to keep people interested in staying in the city for their weekend activities. There's a lot of draw down to downtown Des Moines area, but also we can build upon that ourselves,” said Diekmann.

Main street business owners like Brian Dane say they're on board with the plan.

“It'd be awesome, it'd be perfect. I hold events here for my store, so there's times when if there's a competing event going on there is no parking whatsoever,” he said.

Dane also says it's been a long time coming.

“They've been doing a lot of stuff in Campus Town, in South Ames, and in North Ames. They haven't done a lot for downtown. Getting stuff on Lincoln Way, getting stuff on this area will help revitalize even more the downtown area,” he said.

The half-block site is considered phase one of the project, and if things go well the city will consider further development on Lincoln Way.

The estimated cost of phase one is between $50-$60 million. City development leaders and developers are still discussing the feasibility of this project and will be presenting to the city council in a few months.