University Ave. Construction May Extend East Affecting Local Waveland Area Businesses

DES MOINES, Iowa -- If you've been behind the wheel in the Waveland Woods area recently you've probably seen it and have been dealing with it for months.

The City of Des Moines' roadway rehabilitation project has University Avenue from 48th-63rd streets all under construction. It's scheduled to be completed this fall, but now they are considering extending that project a block to the east.

City officials say it's all in the name of safety, but it may be at the cost of some staples in the area.

“After all these years and the things we have accomplished, it would be a problem for us,” owner of Waveland Cafe, David Stone “Stoney” said.

The initial plans show an added 10 ft wide shared-use bike trail, and on the roadway, the current five-lane cross-section will be cut down to just one lane of traffic each way with a center turning lane. The project also changes the on-street parking outside of Stoney’s cafe to back-in angled parking.

Stoney admits his current parking situation is less than ideal, but things might get even harder for the 35-year-old breakfast spot with these new plans.

“Their plan would take 50 percent of my parking out front,” Stoney said. The city's proposed redesign shows multiple spaces going away right outside of his storefront.

City Engineer Steve Naber says while that's true, they are adding permanent parking along the other side of the street just a block west.

“We know with the amount of customers and people who go to the Waveland Cafe, including myself, that with the amount of tables that they have not everyone gets to park in front of the restaurant,” Naber said. “So we think it’s a pro to add more spaces to what is this critical node to downtown.”

Not to mention, those few spots left out front would now be back-in angled parking.

“While it’s different and new to some people. It's been proven to be a safer alternative for on-street parking when compared to parallel or front in parking,” Naber said.

Stoney feels his clientele may feel otherwise.

“Once you take away the parking and the convenience that's the effect that would hurt me,” Stoney said.

But the city says this stretch of street needs to be safer for all users.

“[The] section from 47th to 48th alone had 56 crashes in the past five years and the section from 47th to 63rd had over 160 crashes in the past five years, so our goal is to reduce that,” Naber said.

While Stoney is all for safety, he fears his options may be limited if this redesign project extends to his storefront.

“If the city decides that their plan is more important than this business than I might have to look at a different city and go to Windsor Heights, Clive, or West Des Moines, and let them get the tax dollars,” Stoney said.

This really is just the beginning of this new street concept. Naber says the earliest the city is looking at this happening is in 2021, but they like to show the community these designs early to get feedback and possibly make changes before officially moving forward.

“We don’t want to spend time and money doing detailed design when we haven't got the feedback of the folks who live and eat and play in these areas,” Naber said.

This concept is to ultimately connect the construction projects already in motion including the construction west of the Waveland Cafe from 48th to 63rd and the construction east of the cafe in front of Drake University. It would make the entire stretch of University Avenue a three-lane cross-section road.

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