By Gregg Hennigan
IOWA CITY – The City Council Economic Development Committee will discuss the Sheraton Iowa City walkway on Wednesday.
The meeting begins at 2:30 p.m. in the city manager’s conference room in City Hall.
In October, the council voted 5-2 to approve an agreement that lets the hotel’s new owner, RBD Iowa City, restrict access to the public easement that serves as a walkway through the hotel’s lobby between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Before that can happen, though, improvements must be made to an exterior walkway to the west of the building, including adding lighting and signs.
The easement through the hotel was created when the hotel was built in the 1980s. At night, it is commonly used by bar and restaurant patrons to enter and leave the Pedestrian Mall area.
Ron Kim of Davidson Hotel Co., which manages the hotel for RBD, told the council he wanted to close off the walkway “to keep the unwanted behavior out” of the hotel.
Council members Amy Correia and Mike Wright cast the dissenting votes, saying that while they understood the hotel’s reasoning, they saw the outside passage as less safe than going through the building.
Other council members said they thought the exterior upgrades would suffice.
The easement currently is 25 feet wide and open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The agreement approved in October will narrow it to about 12 feet. Between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., only hotel employees and guests will be allowed to use it.
In exchange, the hotel will pay half the cost of upgrading the exterior walkway. The city would pick up the other half of the bill, which in October was roughly estimated at up to $300,000.