The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

Hope for the Hill

The “Imagine College Hill Vision Plan” aims to revitalize and develop College Hill. The plan has sat largely untouched since 2021, until it was rescinded by Cedar Falls City Council in November. However, the council voted in their most recent meeting to adopt the plan, with a vote of 5-2.

To some Cedar Falls community members, the Hill is synonymous with vape shops, bars and unruly drunk college students. But to others, it is beloved for its art festivals, markets and unique small businesses.

To Sidecar Coffee owner, Andy Fuctman, the Hill provides a distinctly special location for his business and customers.

“I love the people on College Hill — the business owners and employees, the residents and the university community. I love the energy and the history.”

Located adjacent to the University of Northern Iowa, the Hill has a long history and storied connection with UNI going all the way back to 1894. From a hotdog stand called “The Pink Poodle” to photo studios, clothing stores, restaurants with live music and florists shops, the Hill is now primarily associated with its bars, liquor stores and smoke shops.

Ideas for how to improve parts of the Hill were officially introduced in 2021 with the “Imagine College Hill Vision Plan” adopted by Cedar Falls’ City Council. The plan aims to reimagine the College Hill area as a vibrant entertainment district for surrounding areas.

I would love to actually see College Hill develop, because I do think there’s a lot of value in engaging more with the college student base.

— Danny Laudick, Cedar Falls Mayor

However, the plan sat unused for a considerable amount of time until council members voted to officially resend the plan this November, with some members expressing concern over the plan’s broadness and zoning suggestions.

For the time being, future development on the Hill seemed out of the picture. But local elections brought new council members to the chambers, and with them a renewed sense of passion for passing the plan.

Among the newly elected representatives was Aaron Hawbaker, a City Councilman for Ward 4. He made it his primary focus to get the vision plan back on the table.

“At some point, though, I think there needs to be action,” Hawkbaker said during the council meeting on Monday. “It is simply the adoption of a plan, a vision, like a master plan. It’s something that gives the parameters for the staff that when we direct them to work on the character district one, two, and three, they know what we’re asking of them, and they know what they can look at to bring back to the council.”

Noah Hackbart, the UNI student liaison for the Cedar Falls City Council, also spoke in favor of passing the plan.

“I think we can all agree that change is necessary,” Hackbart said. “And this plan is a good starting point. This seems to be an adversarial thing, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We don’t have to do that. This 94-page document isn’t perfect, but adopting it will allow us to make some real moves this time. And I hope the council will make that happen.”


The council proceeded to pass the plan, with a vote of 5-2. With the passage of the plan, city staff can now begin drafting recommendations for the implementation of various aspects of the plan. The recommendations will then be brought back to council for further discussion.

Cedar Falls Mayor Danny Laudick said he hopes the vision plan will draw more college students to the Hill.

“To me, College Hill has always been more of the eclectic, more edgy version of a Main Street. So I would love to actually see College Hill develop, because I do think there’s a lot of value in engaging more with the college student base.”

Laudick continued, acknowledging progress may be slow, the city is up for the challenge. “There are people that have beat their head against the wall for the last several years and they were just hoping it would be done. It will get there. But there’s an old saying I like that says, ‘We always overestimate what we can accomplish in a day and we underestimate what we can accomplish in the year.’”

More information about the vision plan can be found on the City of Cedar Falls’ website.

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