A new trail is coming to Council Bluffs and with it the possibility of redevelopment and mass transit!

City of Council Bluffs officials and community leaders held a groundbreaking ceremony for the First Ave multi-use trail on Thursday, April 22, 2021. The First Ave multi-use trail will run along 1st Avenue from 16th Street to 35th Street closing critical gaps in the regional trail system and enhancing access to West Broadway businesses, River’s Edge, and many nearby amenities. Phase 1 construction has begun and encompasses the portion between 25th Street and 35th Street.

“It’s exciting to see construction begin on First Ave. The trail will be the premier trail for the metro; no other can rival its quality and attention to detail,” said Council Bluffs Mayor Matt Walsh. “It connects neighborhoods, businesses, schools, parks, and will be safe and usable for pedestrians and cyclists of all ages and abilities.”

1st Avenue, a former rail corridor vacated in 2013, is located one block south of West Broadway and stretches 1.8 miles from 16th Street to 35th Street. Nearly 30% of Council Bluffs residents live within one-half mile of this corridor. The West Broadway Corridor Plan (adopted July 2015) proposed to transform the former rail line into a multi-modal corridor featuring trails, transit, and redevelopment. The multi-modal corridor enhances the operation of West Broadway, makes an essential link in the trail system, and provides the opportunity for redevelopment of obsolete industrial properties.

The First Ave trail presents a unique user experience. Conducive to walking, biking, and micro-mobility options, trail amenities include lighting, landscaping, public spaces, and trail plazas, transforming the corridor into a linear park, not just a trail. Trail plazas are fashioned with an industrial pallet inspired by the former rail line and include shaded seating, open green spaces, and bicycle parking.

Rendering courtesy of the City of Council Bluffs

“We love our trails in Iowa, and our community already has one of the best in the state,” said Brenda Mainwaring, President and CEO of the Iowa West Foundation, which has contributed approximately $2 million to develop trails in Pottawattamie County.  “The First Ave trail will raise the bar even higher by connecting transit throughout Council Bluffs, offering neighborhoods and businesses along the route a key amenity for economic growth.”

First Ave concepts also contain future redevelopment introducing a variety of innovative and diverse opportunities for housing options, commercial prospects, and transit.

“This metro will soon surpass a million people. We are already in a housing crisis,” said Brandon Garrett, Council Bluffs Community Development Director. “As this growing metro searches for ways to meet the demands for housing, Council Bluffs is positioning itself to play a key role in the urban core by making quality of life improvements that not only benefit the residents of today but also attract and welcome the residents and businesses of the future. We are making investments in infrastructure, housing, the riverfront, economic development, and strengthen our property tax base.”

Ideally, the First Avenue corridor will consist of high-density residential and mixed-use redevelopment. The district would benefit from the multi-modal corridor and provide a residential base to support commercial uses on West Broadway.

“This trail opens a direct pathway from downtown Council Bluffs to downtown Omaha and paves the way for revitalization and reinvestment in what was an industrial rail corridor surrounded by neighborhoods,” said Garrett.

Construction for Phase 1 of the First Ave trail is expected to be complete in the fall of 2021. Phase 2 is slated to begin spring of 2022. Funding for the First Avenue Corridor is provided by the City’s Capital Improvement Program, the Iowa West Foundation, and other grants.

For more information, including conceptual imagery, visit the First Ave webpage at FirstAveCB.com and listen to the podcast “On First” via Apple, Google, or OnFirstCB.com.

*This blog originated as a press release from the City of Council Bluffs

This post was originally published on April 27, 2021 on the Unleash Council Bluffs blog.