Sasaki's master plan for the Cedar Rapids Riverfront is a vehicle to revitalize the city and the region, which was devastated by a flood in 2008. Following their work on the flood recovery plan, Sasaki embarked on collaborating with the city to generate a plan that will increase residents' quality of life, attract and retain the next-generation workforce, and encourage residential and business reinvestment. Cedar Rapids engaged the community to help determine the future of the riverfront in the context of the greater Parks and Recreation System. Thousands of participants gave feedback on the city's parks and recreation needs, culminating in a comprehensive plan that directs reinvestment in the city and the region for the next 15 years. The new destination riverfront will attract residents and visitors to the heart of the city and increase connectivity and sustainability in the region. The plan provides a blueprint to guide decisions about investments along the Cedar River for years to come.
The goals of the plan included attracting and retaining residents in Cedar Rapids, attracting residents and visitors to the riverfront, addressing flood damage to riverfront parks and trails, enhancing connectivity to the river from the trail system, and meeting community priorities for the new riverfront as a piece of the greater Parks and Recreation System while addressing operational funding constraints. This planning effort engaged over 1,000 residents through a series of three open houses from June to November of 2009. The resulting Riverfront Master Plan balances a diverse set of community needs—providing desirable amenities to create a downtown destination, neighborhood-scaled amenities, continuous public access, increased water-side recreational opportunities, and acres of new wetlands and restored riparian zones to help contain and absorb the river's floodwaters.
Sasaki is working with the city to implement the first phase Riverfront Amphitheater and Festival Lawn. During the design process, Sasaki assisted the city in writing grants and developing fundraising materials. These efforts garnered approximately $2.9 million in state funds and over $2 million in private donations. Collectively, the project represents a major partnership between the city, county, and state along with private citizens and businesses to help transform the city through the implementation of the $7.5 million project.
In the summer of 2011, construction began on the Riverfront Amphitheater and Festival Lawn. This aspect of the project is a poignant example of how the plan leverages the investment in infrastructure to help activate the core of the city with programmable spaces for residents, workers, and visitors. The flexible amphitheater includes permanent and lawn seating, but also functions as a riverfront park that is accessible to the public when performances are not taking place. The amphitheater is also integrated into a new levee. The Festival Lawn accommodates parking for amphitheater events, but can also be programmed as a secondary venue for events and festivals. Plantings of native vegetation along the river's edge and on the levee restore the ecological function of the site.