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Sioux City Closer To Finalizing Riverfront Development Project

Katie Peikes/IPR
Sioux City's riverfront on a foggy January morning.

Sioux City council members have gotten a look at the latest plan to transform a vacant lot along the city’s riverfront into a tourist destination.
SmithGroup architect Tom Rogers Monday presented a plan for a 30-foot tall interactive fountain that would light up at night and could change colors – one of the key features for making a part of the city’s riverfront more attractive.

“…It meets these goals of creating a beacon, an icon that draws you in from the highway,” Rogers said to the council, “but also giving you an interactive experience with a water feature/play area that’s something dynamic and different every time you come back and something that works throughout the year.”

City officials had been considering a ferris wheel for the 15-acre vacant lot along the riverfront, but Rogers says his team has been working to find something more unique for Sioux City. Davenport’s riverfront has a ferris wheel.

“Making some authentic to Sioux City was something we were searching for,” Rogers said. “That’s why we came up with the idea of the river lights and added the detail of doing elements that were about the city itself, so it could be a one of a kind thing that you couldn’t find anywhere else.”

One of the big goals, Sioux City Parks and Recreation Director Matt Salvatore said, has been to catch peoples’ attention and draw them into the city.

“One way to do that was with something that could be multicolored, LED, lit up at night, just high in stature," Salvatore said. "Now that’s going to be accomplished in a different way with a project called River Lights. Multicolored, LED, some high-towered type fixtures, but also an interactive fountain with fog and everything else.”

Other items in the latest riverfront development include overlooks, a fishing pier, a dog park and green space used for a yoga lawn. The project so far calls for almost 70 parking spaces, which Sioux City Mayor Bob Scott said is insufficient.

“This is all great, but if you don’t have parking, don’t build a park, because people are not gonna walk miles to go to this,” Scott said.

The project is still being developed and Salvatore said they’ll need to have more discussions about parking. The city says it will kick off fundraising for its $14.5 million plan in the near future. Sioux City still needs to approve $6.5 million in city funds for the riverfront, which will be discussed during budget talks this weekend.

Katie Peikes was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio from 2018 to 2023. She joined IPR as its first-ever Western Iowa reporter, and then served as the agricultural reporter.