FIRST AVE Project
First Avenue, a former rail corridor vacated in 2013, is located one block south of West Broadway, the city’s main thoroughfare. Roughly 60% of Council Bluffs residents live within one mile of this corridor. The West Broadway Corridor Plan (adopted July 2015) proposed transforming the former rail line into a multi-modal corridor featuring trails, transit, and redevelopment.
The multi-modal corridor enhances the operation of West Broadway, makes an essential link in the trail system, creates a transit link to Downtown Omaha, and provides the opportunity for redevelopment of obsolete industrial properties.
The FIRST AVE trail presents a unique user experience. Conducive to walking, biking, and micro-mobility options, trail amenities include lighting, landscaping, public spaces, and trail plazas, making the corridor a linear park, not just a trail. Trail plazas are fashioned with an industrial pallet inspired by the former rail line featuring shaded seating, open green spaces, and bicycle parking. The corridor was designed with the trail offset to the south, preserving a corridor for future transit.
First Ave concepts also contain future redevelopment introducing a variety of innovative and diverse opportunities for housing options, commercial prospects, and transit. It’s more than a trail. FIRST AVE is an acronym for the City’s comprehensive approach to redeveloping this corridor: Furthering Interconnections, Revitalization, Streetscapes, Transportation, and Aesthetics for a Vibrant Economy.
Our vision is a connected Omaha-Council Bluffs metro with transit that seamlessly provides residents access between their homes, jobs, education, healthcare, and entertainment.
The 2.5-mile FIRST AVE trail traverses the most densely populated area of Council Bluffs, situated within close proximity to approximately 60% of our city's residents, totaling approximately 37,500 individuals residing within a one-mile radius of the trail. This trail not only serves as a vital artery for pedestrian traffic but also fosters a sense of connectivity and accessibility within our community.
The strategic positioning of the FIRST AVE trail intersects with key educational institutions such as Thomas Jefferson High School and Edison Elementary, facilitating safe and convenient access for students and families. Moreover, its adjacency to essential amenities like the Hy Vee grocery store enhances its practicality for daily living needs.
The FIRST AVE trail seamlessly integrates with Council Bluffs' renowned River's Edge Park, offering an expansive recreational space for leisure activities and community events. Additionally, its direct linkage to the iconic Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge extends its reach beyond municipal borders, providing a gateway to Omaha, Nebraska, and fostering regional connectivity.
UNMC's “NExT” initiative will bring 8,500+ new jobs to our metro. Mutual of Omaha is building a new headquarters in Downtown Omaha, less than one mile from the City's Dodge Park Golf Course. Offutt Air Force Base is undergoing runway replacement that ensures continued operation, a major stabilizing element to the local economy. Unemployment is currently hovering around 2.5%. How will the metro attract and retain talent for a growing workforce?
The Omaha-Council Bluffs metro is already over one million people. The metro is experiencing a housing shortage that could stunt our growth. Projections indicate our metro could grow by 500,000 people over the next thirty years.
The FIRST AVE Corridor presents a unique opportunity to introduce affordable and contemporary housing options tailored to families seeking to minimize their carbon footprint while embracing a pedestrian-friendly lifestyle akin to that found in larger urban centers. Integrating infrastructure enhancements alongside initiatives such as public art installations and community gatherings along the corridor promises an engaging and connected neighborhood.
Property Tax Base
Council Bluffs is situated within the floodplain of the Missouri River and the Loess Hills. As scenic as these environments are, the river and the hills are obstacles to urban expansion. Strengthening the tax base of Council Bluffs will have to happen within existing areas. FIRST AVE presents a unique opportunity to grow Council Bluffs and keep us on the path of fiscal sustainability.
A Connected Metro
Starting with the Bob Kerrey pedestrian bridge in 2010, the City of Council Bluffs and the City of Omaha have been working together to strengthen connections. The FIRST AVE multi-use trail will connect Downtown Omaha to Downtown Council Bluffs. The City of Council Bluffs and the Iowa West Foundation have committed over $7 million to this project. Soon, this multi-use trail will be part of the Great American Rail Trail that goes from Washington, D.C. to Washington state.
The Greater Omaha Chamber unveiled an “Urban Core” master plan in January 2022 with plans for a modern streetcar with a multi-modal bridge into Council Bluffs. In February 2022, Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert announced their pursuit of the streetcar, which will go from UNMC to the Old Market.
Dodge Park Golf Course & Multi-Modal Bridge
Situated directly across the Missouri River from the metro’s number one employment center of Downtown Omaha, the Dodge Park Golf Course is 130 acres of City-owned land on the developable dry side of the levee. The Greater Omaha Chamber’s Urban Core master plan identified this as the premier location for the development of a new mixed-use and high-density residential neighborhood. This is the single largest contiguous land holding in the vicinity of Downtown Omaha.
The proposed multi-modal bridge over the Missouri River will connect the Omaha streetcar to Council Bluffs and allow for critical bike and pedestrian connections between the communities. The streetcar will ignite the potential for redevelopment of the 130-acre City-owned Dodge Park Golf Course. The land is across the river from Downtown Omaha. A streetcar connection will deliver a much-needed workforce to Downtown Omaha and UNMC.
Before any official design work, the preliminary estimated cost is $100 million for a bridge and $75 million for the streetcar in Council Bluffs. This is an enormous fiscal challenge for a small city of 63,000 like Council Bluffs, but as a part of a metro that is growing to 1.5 million people over the next 30 years, we need to start laying the heavy infrastructure to support the growth in jobs (up to 6,200 just in Council Bluffs), housing for our workforce (up to 33,000 units in the corridor and Dodge Park), and a boost in our property tax base of up to $5.5 billion. FIRST AVE is the way forward for our city and builds a more resilient future for our metro.
On FIRST Podcast
Tune in to our FIRST AVE Podcast to hear what’s happening along 1st Avenue in Council Bluffs, Iowa. City of Council Bluffs Communications Officer Ashley Kruse and Community Development Director Brandon Garrett explore the transformative project and share everything from the specific details to the big picture vision for the future.
FIRST AVE Additional Information
- Transit Alternatives Analysis (Dec. 2020)
- (adopted 2014)
- (adopted 2015)
- West Broadway Corridor Real Estate Market Analysis (2015)
Check out our FIRST AVE Interactive Map that presents the layers of analysis developed for the First Ave Transit Alternatives Analysis project. Additional layers will be added as they become available.
- Amenity Concepts Package (July 2020)
- Amenity Concepts Package (June 2020)
- Trail plaza concepts
- Thomas Jefferson High School trail design concept
- 1st Avenue Trail 16th - 19th Street
- 1st Avenue Trail 19th - 22nd Street
- 1st Avenue Trail 22nd - 25th Street
- 1st Avenue Trail 25th - 28th Street
- 1st Avenue Trail 28th - 31st Street
- 1st Avenue Trail 31st - 34th Street
- 1st Avenue Trail 34th - 35th Street
- Conceptual 1st Avenue Trail Cross Section
- 1st Avenue Mobility Study (Pin-up Day 2 Concepts)
Historical Society of Pottawattamie County Speakers Series (July 2021)
MidAmerican Energy Foundation Award presented for the FIRST AVE Project (May 2021)
Council Bluffs Community School District Board Meeting (Jan. 2021)
Advisory Committee Meeting (Dec. 2020)
City Council Study Session (Sept. 2020)
Planning Commission Meeting (Sept. 2020)
Advisory Committee Meeting (Aug. 2020)
Advisory Committee Meeting (July 2020)
Mode Shift Omaha (June 2020)
Advisory Committee Meeting (June 2020)
Advisory Committee Meeting (May 2020)
Advisory Committee Meeting (April 2020)
Transit Alternatives Analysis Stakeholder Presentation (March 2020)
Advisory Committee Meeting (Jan. 2020)
Transit Alternatives Analysis Stakeholder Presentation (Dec. 2019)
Advisory Committee Meeting (Dec. 2019)
City Council Study Session (Sept. 2019)
FIRST AVE Kick-off Meeting (Feb. 2019)
- MCR/Mixed Commercial Residential District
- Letter of support for MCR District from Greg Youell (Executive Director for MAPA)
- Additional Letters of Support
- Fall 2020 Proposed Changes (Draft)