CLINTON — Officials have been hard at work over the past two years in revitalizing one of Clinton’s most important districts – its downtown.
The driving force behind that revitalization has been a master plan kick started by those such as Downtown Clinton Alliance Executive Director Karen Rowell, who, along with others, has seen the plan take shape since its infancy.
Partnering with MSA Professional Services, the group has banded together to get feedback from Clinton residents when it comes to what they want to see as part of the district’s future. What has become clear in recent months is that those responding residents want to see better housing, dining, recreation, and historical features.
MSA Professional Services specializes in “sustainable development of communities,” and now a draft of the master plan the firm helped create has become clear. Several projects, both small in scale and large, have now been suggested.
“Implementation to us is the most important thing,” MSA’s Stephanie Brown told audience members at a public meeting regarding the plan draft in May. “It’s great to have pretty drawings, but if there are no real concrete ways on how to accomplish (goals), why do it?”
Part of that plan has also featured the scheduled face-lifts of several downtown buildings, notably the Jacobsen Building at 246 Fifth Ave. South, and the Brown’s Shoe Fit Co. Building at 238 Fifth Ave. South. For those endeavors, officials have partnered with the University of Iowa, where students have been actively involved in the upcoming renovations.
Director Rowell has reported that the upgrades will affect both buildings’ interior structure and external facade in an attempt to revitalize the historically significant downtown buildings.
“The students were engaged to take (the two buildings) and come up with a plan for structural development of those buildings,” Rowell said. “They worked with our architect, and they worked with their internal architect as well.”
Rowell has stated in the past that it has been of the utmost importance to show developers that a concrete plan is in place, and that progress is being made. If that trait is evident, the likelihood that even more support comes is exponentially greater.
“This is a great way for us to have different parts of the master plan, so that developers can see what we have to offer,” Rowell said. “We do have some developers that are interested. I think it’s a great way to showcase Clinton. In discussion with other developers, they like to see that we’re thinking ahead instead of thinking behind.”
A rehabilitation project is also underway for a building at 512 S. Second St., one which sits between Black Relic Tattoo and Deb Weise Bookkeeping and Tax. The initiative will soon see commercial space on the building’s first floor, and residential space on its second.
With the project slated to cost a little more than $170,000, a $100,000 state grant awarded in April has put a major spark in the initiative, Rowell said.
“Soon, this will look like a completely new building, and that’s why we do these kinds of things,” Rowell said. “When we have the chance to realistically or reasonably save a building like this rather than knock it down, we’re going to do it.”
A sense of community is also beginning to grow throughout the downtown district. In late July, businesses banded together to host the first “Christmas in July” event, which showed off the products and services of those businesses, all while celebrating an out-of-season Christmas feel.
Organized by Riverfront Antiques’ Sydney Cronin, along with those such as Rowell, the event sought to create a sense of unity among the various downtown businesses.
“Clinton’s downtown is really beautiful, so we thought this would be a fun, festive way to celebrate what we have here,” Cronin said.
The master plan, and events like Christmas in July, are truly an attempt to not only showcase, but to improve the city’s downtown. Visible steps are already being taken, Rowell said, and slow but sure progress is being made.
“We’ve had nine new business in less than a year,” Rowell has reported. “We have also, as far as owners go, had eight or nine new building owners in less than a year. We are seeing movement downtown. So how do I get that word out? Well, I’m telling you (community members)...we do have growth. Is it massive? No. But are we making steps? We are.”