City to seek money for downtown Burlington alleyway project

The alley between Third and Fourth Streets could become more than just an alley if the City of Burlington is successful in securing a grant.

A COVID-19 grant that expires next year could be used to resurface in alleys and create public space behind buildings.

“We are in the early stages of planning,” Jordan Frahm told council members at their regular meeting on Monday. “There is always a need for improvement in public spaces.”

The project would resurface the lane between Third and Fourth Streets from Columbia Street to the train tracks.

The city is applying for a COVID-19 Community Block Development Grant to resurface the driveway between Third and Fourth Streets, which Frahm says is in poor condition but passable.

But there is hope that the lane project could provide more than just a new riding surface. There are plans that would create space in the Jefferson Street area that could be used for a number of things.

Aisle activation projects take existing aisle space and turn it into usable spaces. One idea is for the alley space to be used for events, but Councilman Robert Critser pointed out that in major cities entire businesses operate from stalls in the alleys.

The grant would be $500,000, the maximum amount the City can apply for. As an additional source of revenue, Alliant Energy agreed to partner with the project to allow the company to put power lines underground. City manager Chad Bird said putting power lines underground is a safer option and makes the space more usable.

If the council wins the grant, the city will race against time to spend the money. There is no deadline to apply, but all grants must be spent by mid-2023. This narrow window, combined with Burlington’s winters that make construction difficult, gives the city a limited time frame to complete the project.

A portion of the alley the city hopes to resurface and turn into a usable space for the public is shown along Jefferson Street in downtown Burlington on Tuesday.  The city is requesting a COVID-19 Community Development Block Grant that would allow for the resurfacing of the driveway between Third and Fourth Streets from Columbia Street to the train tracks.

Council adopts resolutions to approve funding for cultural projects

In addition to signing the grant application, the Burlington City Council also passed four resolutions explaining why the city is funding culture-related projects in the Burlington area.

The four resolutions do not represent new expenditures, but rather a new administrative requirement involved in how the city can support the arts.

The cumulative value of the four contracts is $26,000. The contracts go to the Art Guild of Burlington, the Burlington Municipal Band Foundation, the Southeast Iowa Symphony Orchestra and the Capitol Theater.

The city’s money at the Art Guild and the Capitol Theater is supposed to go towards summer camps and activities for underprivileged youth in the area.

For SEISO and Municipal Band, the money is intended to be used for their respective concerts.

The city also sees the projects as having the potential to impact the city’s tours and tourism industry, which the Greater Burlington Partnership says is one of the city’s largest industries.

According to Bird, state auditor Rob Sand said all public money must have a public purpose. By passing the resolutions, Bird said, the city formally articulates the public purpose of funding arts organizations throughout the city.

David H. Henry