About the Organization

Downtown Iowa City has had an active business association since the turn of the 19th Century after the founding of Iowa City as the original state capitol in 1839. After more than a century of growth, the business association rebranded in 2012 as the Iowa City Downtown District by a successful petition to property owners to generate tax revenue through a Self Supported Municipal Improvement District (SSMID) to enhance Downtown. The ICDD is a 501(c) (6)nonprofit organization representing property owners and stakeholders in the Downtown and Northside Neighborhoods of Iowa City charged with overseeing the reinvestment of these funds as they advance a mission to steward the area.

The ICDD provides a leadership directive that advocates for the District mission and serves as a mechanism to more efficiently implement District-wide marketing, programs, events, and projects that support vitality for the benefit of all the businesses within it, the University of Iowa, community members, and the region at large. Since its inception, the Downtown District continues to forge an exciting and deliberate path forward towards cultural vibrancy, resiliency, and sustainability.

ICDD Members and Service Area

The Iowa City Downtown District serves the Downtown and Northside neighborhoods (SSMID aerial map) and is closely aligned with the University of Iowa. The membership of the ICDD is comprised of all the roughly 150 property owners, businesses, and organizations that are located within these neighborhoods and the University. Most members contribute to the ICDD through the SSMID levy or through a direct contribution.

Mission

Our mission is to champion the Iowa City Downtown District as a progressive, healthy, and culturally vibrant urban center of the region.

Vision

Our Vision is to advance a Downtown that thrives as the heart of the Iowa City community, integral to the lives of community members and with far-reaching renown for the authentic character, unique contributions, and opportunities it offers.

Our Values

At the center the Iowa City Downtown District’s Work are core values, which are the means by which the ICDD will achieve its vision. These BOLD values drive how the ICDD operates internally as well as how it functions within the community and region.

Big thinking:

The ICDD has a reputation of thinking big and we strive to push the creative envelope with proactive endeavors, initiatives, and thought.

Original and Authentic:

The ICDD is invested in this place. We keep it authentic to the heritage and culture of this space–home to many “first”, perhaps a few “last”, in an original Downtown (circa 1839).

Locally conscious and sustainable:

Our practices are thoughtful or our economic, environmental, and social impact to the larger community and we encourage this ethic amongst our members.

Dynamic:

Collaboration is a key feature of our working model and we strive to establish programs that advance many community objectives in meaningful ways. We value imagination and innovation in envisioning possibilities and finding solutions to challenges–the entrepreneurial courage to embrace the future and the creative flexibility to respond with dynamic results.

Annually, the ICDD reviews and reports on our Mission Progress and that of our Strategic Plan.

Board of Directors

Because Downtown organizations can be an important impetus to social, environmental, and economic change, the District’s by-laws provide that the leadership for the organization include stable representation of Downtown interests and the University of Iowa, opportunities for stakeholder insights within the community, well-integrated ex-officio representation, and gender balance. The Board and staff are comprised as follows:

Board meetings are held monthly and members are encouraged to attend.

Meeting minutes are open for public review.

Officers
President: Naftaly Stramer- Oasis Falafel
President-Elect: Michelle Galvin- Velvet Coat
Treasurer: Kent Jehle – MidwestOne Bank
Secretary: Susan Craig – Iowa City Public Library
Past President: Mark Ginsberg – MC Ginsberg
Ex-Officio, Non-Voting Members
Wendy Ford – City of Iowa City
Kim Casko – Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce
Kate Moreland – Iowa City Area Development Group
Josh Schamberger – Iowa City Coralville Convention and Visitors Bureau
Lisa Barnes – Summer of the Arts
Ben Nelson – UI Student Government
Nancy Bird – Iowa City Downtown District Executive Director
Directors
George Etre – Takanami, Formosa, El Patron
Wesley Ward – High ground cafe
Bill Nusser – Hands Jewelers
Anne Armitage – Moss
David Kieft – University of Iowa
Jason Deppe – Saloon
Katie Roche – The Englert
Nick Lindsley – Neumann Monson Architects
Crissy Canganelli – Shelter House
Joni Schrup – Discerning Eye
Ritu Jain – Textiles
Mary Kate Pilcher Hayek – Hayek Moreland Smith & Bergus

STAFF

The daily work of the ICDD is conducted by a great team of staff that are approachable and here to advance the mission of the organization.

Executive Director: Nancy Bird
[email protected]
Director of Operations: Betsy Potter
[email protected]
Nightime Mayor: Angela Winnike
[email protected]
Director of Public Art: Thomas Agran
[email protected]
Special Events Assistant: Christopher Hunter
[email protected]

Initiatives

The Downtown District has identified several long-term programs and initiatives that reflect the evolving nature of the Downtown District, the innovative spirit of our community, and the many varied opportunities for people to connect with each other and us. These 17 initiatives provide a portal for community involvement and ultimately, ownership. Our advocacy takes each of these initiatives into account and aligns with the Downtown District’s strategic plan. They help ideas that foster innovation, creativity, and cultural vibrancy.

Downtown District History

The Downtown District is the economic and cultural engine of the Iowa City community. It is home to a wide variety of independent, locally-owned boutiques, shops, and some of the very best in dining and entertainment, and is a place where University and local business innovations merge. The Downtown’s unique and distinguishing features include:

  • Its locational adjacency to the University of Iowa’s central landmark campus, the “Pentacrest,” and connection with faculty and campus life.
  • Its historic building stock juxtaposed against contemporary architecture reflecting the authenticity of a Downtown that has evolved over the past 175 years.
  • Its headquarters for the U.S. City of Literature, one of 20 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizations (UNESCO) in the world. This designation was granted to Iowa City due to the heritage around the UI Writer’s Workshop and the City’s deep literary culture.
  • Its central “Ped Mall,” one of the few remaining vibrant pedestrian malls in the nation that serves as the living room of the community with over 35 sidewalk patios.
  • Its walkable and bikeable urban grid, as envisioned by then Commissioner Chauncey Swan when laying out the old State Capitol along the Iowa River in 1839.
  • Its function as the community’s central “Downtown” for the Iowa City, Coralville, and North Liberty areas with retail, small grocers, restaurants, residential, nightlife, and multiple cultural and civic amenities.

Situated a few blocks north from the Ped Mall in the Downtown neighborhood, a statue of famed local historian Irving Weber anchors a walkway that stretches north through UI campus to the District’s second neighborhood – the Northside Marketplace. The Northside holds its own rich history, especially when it comes to politics and beer. The landmark “writer’s diner,” Hamburg Inn #2, is where Presidents and political hopefuls come to caucus and find the Midwesterner’s interest and over the years, the Northside pubs have seated many world-renowned authors. The neighborhood was also once home to a brewer’s guild and historic beer caves remain in tunnels under many of the churches, restaurants, coffee shops, bookstores, and specialty retail today.