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Check Out the Latest Developments in Ames, IA

City is investing in the future with new high school, aquatic center, public plaza, and more.

By Bill Lewis on June 13, 2022

OPN Architects Inc.

The new high school, the indoor aquatic center, hotel and conference space, and public plaza coming to downtown are more than beautiful landmarks that are under development in Ames, IA. They are investments in the future that will add new energy to the city’s already unmatched quality of life.

“Overall, these projects are transformative to both the area and the region as a whole by creating new economic, social and recreational options,” says Kelly Diekmann, Ames planning and housing director.

Construction of the city’s new high school was launched after voters overwhelmingly approved the $137 million project. The school will feature state-of-the-art academic spaces, career and tech education spaces, a performing arts center, indoor and outdoor athletic facilities, an indoor swimming pool and administrative spaces.

New Ames High School in Iowa
OPN Architects Inc.

Investing in Education in Ames

The Ames High construction project is the result of a successful bond referendum that was approved by nearly 85% of the Ames community in 2018. The new building is replacing the current high school in Ames.

“Substantial completion is scheduled for April 2022, and the building will open in August 2022 for the start of the 2022-23 school year,” says Eric Smidt, director of communications for the Ames Community School District.

New High School

The 430,000-square-foot school is designed to accommodate nearly 2,000 students.

In addition to its collaborative environment, the building features an energy-efficient design, a geothermal heating and cooling system, LED lighting, automation, state-of-the-art technology systems and views of the Pohl Prairie.

The grounds feature pedestrian- and bike-friendly access paths, bike parking and other amenities. A Science Discovery Area will be located near the building.

New indoor aquatic center in Ames, IA
RDG Planning & Design

A Splashy Regional Attraction

The indoor aquatic center coming to downtown will create a regional attraction and is a key element in the city’s Downtown Reinvestment District Urban Renewal Plan. The facility’s estimated cost is $31.2 million.

The indoor aquatic center is a recreational and entertainment amenity that will feature zero-entry pools, children’s play areas, lazy river and more. As designed, the facility will include a combination of features that are not available anywhere else in the area. Construction could begin in 2023.

“This facility will be much more than a municipal pool,” Diekmann says. “The facility helps create an additional centrally located amenity that focuses energy and activity around the downtown area. The facility is accessible from all parts of the city by car, bus, walking and bicycling.”

New downtown plaza in Ames, IA

In and Around Downtown

Planning for a walkable urban redevelopment along Lincoln Way that creates a gateway to downtown has been underway for several years. The area at Kellogg and Lincoln Way is at the heart of the city’s vision. The goal is to launch what Diekmann calls a “catalyst project” that includes new housing, a hotel and commercial elements.

“Adding these opportunities adjacent to downtown helps to preserve the historic character of downtown while also benefiting the area with more residents, employees and attractions. The addition of housing to this area is highly desired to create new urban living options that are not readily available in downtown,” Diekmann says.

The hotel and conference space included in the plan is intended to be a full-service facility featuring an upper-level restaurant and bar with views of Ames toward the Iowa State University campus. “Hopefully, it will become a signature destination within Ames for that special night out,” Diekmann says.

Planning is underway, and the city and developer hope to break ground later in 2022, he says.

Downtown’s new public plaza is also moving forward. The approximately 1-acre site east of City Hall is designed to be a multiseasonal attraction that brings people downtown throughout the year. It will include recreational amenities for summer activities and games with a signature flowing water feature called a runnel and an interactive water spray area. “This unique attraction is designed with kids in mind to have a playful and fun experience,” Diekmann says.

The plaza will encourage socializing and provide opportunities to experience open space and public art in the downtown area. During winter, the plaza area will become a recreational ice skating ribbon. Construction is expected to start in the summer of 2022. “This collection of projects is all about meeting the needs of the community and realizing our vision for enhancing and expanding downtown,” Diekmann says.

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