SIOUX CITY -- The city plans to shut down through traffic in the 300 block of Pearl Street to increase safety for pedestrians at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and to allow the casino to add approximately 25 surface parking spaces.
The Hard Rock, which is in the process of partnering with the city to construct a new $11 million parking garage at the southwest corner of Third and Pearl streets, has requested the street closure as an addition to its site plan for the ramp project.
The Hard Rock currently owns the 300 block of Pearl Street, which separates the two sides of its surface parking lot, but still allows traffic through an agreement reached with the city prior to the casino's construction in 2013.
Casino representatives now want a full closure of the street because of problems with vehicle speeds and higher-than-expected truck traffic, despite the speed humps and traffic circle installed as safety features.
"At the end of the day, there's way too much traffic that is speeding through there," Hard Rock general manager Jim Franke told the city's Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday. "We've not had any (accidents) reported, just close calls."
Under the proposal, the Hard Rock would shut down traffic and convert that portion of the street into 25 parking spaces, as well as an island facing Third Street with landscape elements and a monument sign.
The Planning and Zoning Commission voted 4-1 to approve the item, with the stipulation that the Hard Rock adds a marked pedestrian pathway to allow foot traffic through the property. Commission member Jean Calligan voted against the item. Members Lee Beukelman and Joe Krage were absent from the meeting.
Calligan said the street closure will hinder traffic to development on Pearl Street, something she said runs contrary to the city's desires to build up and support downtown commerce.
"That's going to be a hindrance to that street, whether those people on that street understand that or not," Calligan said. "Location and access is everything for a business."
One business owner, Jeff Conley of Bodega 401, attended Tuesday's meeting to comment on the closure. Conley told the commission he was not opposed to the closure but worried about foot traffic coming north to his bar and restaurant at 401 Pearl St. from the Tyson Events Center or Stoney Creek Hotel & Conference Center.
"I don't think it's necessarily feasible for them to walk next to parked cars all the way through there, especially in the winter," he said.
The City Council will now consider the revised site plan at its July 23 meeting. The council is expected to pass the measure since it approved a development agreement last month that specified the city would close the street to public traffic.
Property owners in the area of Pearl Street were notified of the plans for the closure June 29, more than two weeks after the development agreement passed and about a week and a half prior to Tuesday's Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.
Property owners are not required to be notified of development agreements but are for planning and zoning items.
The decision to close the street has thus far received little pushback compared to the controversy five years ago when the Hard Rock first broached its desire to close the street.
At the time, several Pearl Street property owners worried that restricted access would deter motorists from stopping at downtown places such as Historic Pearl, the business and entertainment district just north of the casino site.
When the city approved the original site plan for the casino in 2013, the City Council had agreed to vacate the block of Pearl Street between Third and Fourth Streets under the condition the Hard Rock would continue to allow through traffic on the roadway.