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Leeds business district

Traffic drives through the Leeds business district in Sioux City on Jan. 19. Sioux City partnered with the University of Iowa in August to develop a plan for the corridor.

SIOUX CITY | A study conducted by University of Iowa graduate students into Sioux City’s Leeds neighborhood aims to preserve and revitalize the community’s aging business corridor.

The partnership is part of Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities, a program that matches students and cities across Iowa to provide students with experience working on community projects. Five graduate students are involved with the Leeds study.

Sioux City partnered with the program in April to develop a plan for the Leeds corridor in addition to six other community projects identified by city leaders. 

The students will provide an update on the ongoing study during a public town hall meeting at 7 p.m. Feb. 19 at Leeds Elementary School, 3919 Jefferson St. The study will be presented to the city once it is completed.

Leeds is between Outer Drive North and the 4700 block of Floyd Boulevard. Sioux City annexed the community in 1890.

Michael Tylka, 28, a graduate student who studies urban and regional planning, said some residents were concerned about property values and big-box stores along Floyd Boulevard that might deter prospective business owners from setting up shop in Leeds.

“They really want something to drive new businesses there,” Tylka said. “We are looking at ways to greater define that historical significance.”

Scott Smith, president of the Leeds Community Club, said he appreciated the feedback.

“They’re doing quite well,” Smith said. “They took down a lot of information from us and gave us ideas of what the city wants.”

The community celebrated its 125th anniversary in JuneIn December, Leeds residents installed a $21,000 electronic sign to replace a former event sign that welcomed drivers as they passed through the neighborhood.

“It’s a really well-knit community from what we’ve seen,” Tylka said.

Tylka said Leeds would benefit from updated store facades, repaired sidewalks and additional parking. He referred to Leeds as a “well-defined neighborhood” and “very walkable.”

Smith said the community agreed that Leeds could benefit from updated infrastructure and more appealing storefronts.

“If all goes according to plan and everything works out 100 percent, I think (the study will) be a good impact on the Leeds area,” Smith said.

Sioux City Mayor Bob Scott said he supports any updates to the Leeds corridor. He also said that's something the city needs to explore for other areas such as Riverside and Morningside.

"It bothered me a lot that we had not extended that same courtesy to other areas," Scott said. "I hope we don't limit it to Leeds, and I hope we find a solution to all of these small commercial corridors in town."

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