The first phase, which included removal of the parking lot and construction of a central plaza, was completed in June 2007. It cost $2.3 million. Another $1.6 million was approved by lawmakers for a second phase construction of gardens and sidewalks and other improvements, which was completed in July 2008.
A third phase will include amphitheater seating near the west end with a grand entrance from the East Village, a revitalized commercial district with an eclectic mix of restaurants, shops and bars.
Moving the row house is a small piece in the larger plan.
“It’s a continuation of the plan which is the effort to return the Capitol and the Capitol complex area to its initial and original condition,” said Caleb Hunter, a spokesman for the Iowa Department of Administrative Services. “The Capitol is really the focal point of the area and it’s an effort to not hide your best feature. The architecture is unique and it’s a good looking building so the idea is to enhance that.”
Christiansen also supports the state’s efforts to expand the public space and green areas around the Capitol.
“It’s the closest thing to a park adjacent to the East Village. I have several investments in the East Village some of which have people living in them and the rest have people working in them. It’s a great continuation of the East Village’s rebirth. It’s our Capitol. It should show well and I think they’re well on their way to accomplishing that.”
The long-term plan for the area is to similarly reshape each side of the Capitol by removing parking lots and in some cases aging institutional-looking state buildings and installing additional pedestrian walkways surrounded by gardens.
“These gardens will serve as visual and spatial connectors between buildings to the north and south...” according to the 2010 update of the Iowa State Capitol Complex Master Plan description of the east entrance to the building. “These gardens will integrate the WWII Memorial Plaza and new trees on the East Mall. The East Gardens should be intimate in character and facilitate activities of the State.”
Continued enhancements to the area around the Capitol depend on approval of funding from the governor and the Legislature.
The Capitol Planning Commission, a group established by the Legislature to offer recommendations on future development around the building, forwarded several priorities to lawmakers last year.
They included monument and artwork repair and restoration, parking lot improvements, and the third phase of the West Capitol Terrace.
The Legislature didn’t fund any of the projects.