Downtown Iowa City Welcomes New Ambassador Program

This post is shared from: Iowa City Downtown District

The City of Iowa City & the Iowa City Downtown District have partnered for a new contract with Block by Block

The City of Iowa City and the Iowa City Downtown District (ICDD) have joined forces to elevate downtown services through an innovative partnership. Following unanimous approval by both the City Council and the ICDD Board of Directors, a three-year contract has been awarded to Block by Block Management Systems to provide expanded ambassador, cleaning, and hospitality services to the central business district and downtown parking garages. The new program “Downtown Iowa City Ambassadors” is set to launch in early June 2024.

The “Downtown Iowa City Ambassadors” program, managed by Block by Block, an industry expert in urban maintenance and cleanliness, represents a significant investment in enhancing the downtown experience. Funded by the Iowa City Downtown District and the City of Iowa City, this initiative underscores the commitment of both entities to prioritizing public safety, hospitality, and cleanliness in the heart of the city. The cleaning ambassadors will be trained to provide assistance, information, and a friendly presence, and will serve as invaluable resources for residents, visitors, and businesses, contributing to a vibrant and welcoming atmosphere. With Block by Block’s expertise and the support of the collaboration, the Downtown Iowa City Ambassadors program is poised to make a meaningful difference in downtown Iowa City, ensuring that it remains a thriving and welcoming destination.

Overall, Block by Block’s combination of competitive wages, extensive training, focus on quality of life, and long-term contracts in places like Downtown Des Moines set them apart from other companies. Transportation Services Director of the City of Iowa City, Darian Nagle Gamm said, “An exceptional level of support is required to keep the Downtown safe, clean, and welcoming for residents and visitors. We look forward to partnering with the Downtown District to bring an enhanced level of maintenance and upkeep services.” To date, the City of Iowa City has been contracting baseline trash removal and cleaning services to another contractor and partnered with the ICDD for seasonal power washing.

In addition to those existing programs coming under the new workload of the ambassadors, the ICDD and the city are looking for additional services like graffiti abatement, weed removal, having a street sweeper operate consistently downtown, and having someone to help guide visitors. Block by Block would take on the services formerly provided by ABM Janitorial Services and individual power washing contracts.

Additional services Block by Block ambassadors will provide will include:

  • Litter and debris removal
  • Power washing
  • Cleaning sidewalks, other pedestrian rights of way, and tree wells
  • Graffiti removal
  • Hospitality wayfinding
  • After-hours escorts

Block by Block will appoint an Operations Manager and a team to serve as ambassadors in Downtown Iowa City, on the timeline to launch services by June 2024. Rachel Kilburg Varley, Economic Development Director at the City of Iowa City, expressed excitement about the partnership, stating, “The City is excited to be partnering with the Downtown District on this great opportunity. By bringing this nationally recognized cleaning and ambassador service to Downtown Iowa City, we’re creating a cleaner and safer space for the public to gather and enjoy.”

Initially, the ICDD contemplated hiring one full-time staff member to augment the office Downtown District team and bolster services in downtown Iowa City. However, upon further exploration of ambassador programs and service enhancement opportunities, a collaborative approach between the ICDD and the City emerged as the most effective strategy. “We know the communities with sustainable and successful ambassador programs are where there is a strong City & business improvement district partnership. Clean and safe initiatives continue to be a priority of the Downtown District organization since its inception. A primary focus of our organization’s advocacy and strategic plan have been on areas of cleaning and safe”, said Betsy Potter, Executive Director, ICDD.

When Block by Block comes to a community, the development of the program is customized and fully branded to the place and its specific needs. While in some cities, Block by Block focuses on safety and cleanliness, in Iowa City, the core hours will be spent on cleaning and hospitality of the Downtown District and the six downtown parking garages. Varley emphasized the importance of collaboration between the City and the Downtown improvement district, stating, “Bringing Block by Block to Downtown Iowa City is a great example of the type of community enhancements that can be possible by a strong relationship between the City and Downtown improvement district.”

An MDID Ambassadors brushes snow off a sidewalk. Two Louisville Ambassadors stand next to a Mega Brute for Valentines Day. An Ambassador pressure washes graffiti on a brick wall. A group of Ambassadors standing against a wall for a team photo.