Downtown master plan unveiled

Jake Mosbach/Clinton HeraldMSA Professional Services' Stephanie Brown presents a draft of the firm's master plan for the future of downtown Clinton on Tuesday night,

CLINTON — History, housing, recreation, and a "sense of community" are all things that Clinton residents can expect to see in the coming years as part of the city's Downtown Master Plan, officials unveiled this week.

The city of Clinton has partnered with MSA Professional Services, a firm specializing in "sustainable development of communities," and now a draft of that master plan has become clear. Several projects, both small in scale and large, have now been suggested after the firm received community input at a meeting in late February.

On the smaller scale of things, initiatives such as way-finding, improved crosswalks or downtown walkways, or improved bicycle racks and streetlights are on the docket. But larger projects such as visually appealing public art, upgraded storefronts, and even things such as outdoor drinking and dining opportunities are also in the cards, officials have indicated –- all in an attempt to revitalize the city's downtown commercial district.

"Implementation to us is the most important thing," MSA's Stephanie Brown told audience members at a public meeting regarding the plan draft Tuesday evening. "It's great to have pretty drawings, but if there are no real concrete ways on how to accomplish (goals), why do it?"

The firm has analyzed in-depth statistics such as property values and the potential investment opportunities when it comes to several prominent downtown properties during the drafting process, with Brown and colleagues finding optimism that the district is far from "lost."

Utilizing the district's proximity to the Mississippi River was also discussed at Tuesday's meeting, with MSA officials grouping the riverfront area with downtown.

Community members at the meeting showed general approval for MSA's draft, with people like Clinton History Club member Jack Rowland and others appreciating the plan's nod to the historic buildings in the downtown district. Recently, plans were unveiled to revamp the structural and internal conditions of the Jacobsen Building and the Brown's Shoe Fit Co. building, sitting at 246 Fifth Ave. South and 238 Fifth Ave. South respectively.

Projects such as those, part of the master plan, have stakeholders optimistic that MSA's work will breathe new life into the downtown district. Things are already looking up, according to Downtown Clinton Alliance Director Karen Rowell, who has been at the heart of the drafting process since the beginning.

Tuesday, Rowell gave audience members more good news as the future of downtown Clinton appears to be growing brighter.

"We've had nine new business in less than a year," Rowell 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."