It’s hard to make a jail pretty and there is certainly no real effort to do this with the proposed Johnson County Justice Center. This jail will be a subtraction to the urban fabric of Iowa City. The city wants to direct future downtown development in this general area, but a new 240-bed jail should not ever be considered a community development asset unless you want to include the opening bail bonds offices as community assets.
I’ve read that one county supervisor argues for this jail as some kind of sprawl fighter; in fact, this jail, if built, will thwart community development efforts in this part of Iowa City as planned for in what is now being billed as “Riverfront Crossing.” If the bond referendum is passed and this jail is built, redeveloping the area around it will become a more difficult sell for planners and developers.
The county has given us dogs of buildings before and likely will again with this project. The new county office building is a nondescript structure that does nothing to encourage positive development and has no street presence. I hate sprawl, too, but if Johnson County can only give us public architecture that discourages urbanism, perhaps the future projects are done best outside the corporate limits of Iowa City.
Vote no on the $46.8 million Justice Center bond issue.
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