The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

January 31, 2012

Downtown multi-use marketplace gets boost

Legacy Foundation contributes $350,000 for renovation

OTTUMWA — Three area chefs started talking about how best to design the kitchen at a downtown, year-round community market.

Brad Little, president and CEO of the Ottumwa Legacy Foundation, said it was great to see people working at different places — the Ottumwa Country Club’s head chef, Bridge View Center’s head chef and Indian Hills Community College’s chef in charge of the culinary arts department — all excited about the same project.

“We’re hoping this kind of concept [encourages] even more collaboration,” Little said Monday.

Earlier that morning, he had handed organizers a check for $350,000.

The idea is to renovate an old building into a community marketplace that will have multiple, year-round uses. There will be an indoor farmers’ market along with a modern teaching kitchen, business incubator space and  exhibit areas.

Main Street Ottumwa’s director Cindy Woodbury wrote a grant to the Ottumwa Legacy Foundation, which was started after the sale of the nonprofit Ottumwa Regional Health Center to a for-profit business.

So with those millions of dollars in the bank, the Legacy Foundation uses the interest to support innovative programs that will have an impact on community vitality.

“This [community market], in our opinion, defines what we would consider an opportunity to show some positive change in the downtown area,” Little said. “We’re especially excited to see the multiple partners and supporters involved to make this first step a success.”

The idea had enough merit that Little’s Ottumwa-based charity has given the organizers a $350,000 grant.

Writing effective grants may be one of Woodbury’s strengths, but she said there’s a very large group of citizens in the region who have supported the idea of an indoor, year-round farmers’ market.

“These are just some of the organizations involved,” she said, pointing out a photograph Monday afternoon.

Little was handing Woodbury the check. But also in the photo were representatives from Ottumwa Progress, Inc., the Master Gardeners, Indian Hills, downtown businesses, the City of Ottumwa and the Ottumwa Farmers’ Market.

And no, said Woodbury, this award wasn’t in the form of one of those giant novelty checks used for publicity photos. This was a $350,000 check the director deposited in the bank.

Little named some of the projects that have improved the downtown area, from the lighted bridge to the new businesses beautifying their facades.

He said his board is aware there are other improvements that would benefit Ottumwa, too.

“These are baby steps. We can’t come in and fix everything at once,” said Little. “This was a block grant for renovation of a building.”

This new development at the corner of Jefferson and Main streets could be a linchpin for the area. As the area improves, it would be hard to ignore other infrastructure needs.

Little said this community project needs to be “a win” because that corner is highly visible and has a lot of history. Some of the recent history saw the corner go from business to business to business.

“Sometimes projects like this are about more than the structure of a building, more than the nuts and bolts. They can be a symbol.”

This renovation won’t be another “flavor of the month,” said Little.

“The more conversations we have with Cindy’s group, the more confidence we have that this is a great project to keep things moving,” he said.

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