The Ottumwa Courier

January 26, 2013

Group hopes to create ‘wow factor’ downtown

Entire block could receive new storefronts if city awarded grant

CHELSEA DAVIS
artwork submitted

OTTUMWA — Two years ago, the 300 block of East Main Street was designated as a slum and blight area.

But Ottumwa city planner Nick Klimek hopes that if the city is awarded a $500,000 grant, a downtown facade initiative could have a positive, reverse effect on downtown Ottumwa.

The Ottumwa City Council approved the CDBG application for the Downtown Master Facade Improvement Program at its meeting this week.

“The level of participation is what makes this project truly transformative,” Klimek said.

Out of the 12 building owners in the block, 10 have agreed to participate.

And based on lineal footage, 90 percent of the blighted facades — not including those already being renovated or in the process of being renovated — would be addressed through the program.

“If we do include the buildings that have been renovated or are in the works, this would improve 93 percent of the facades in the 300 block,” Klimek said.

The approximately $1 million project will bring in funding from multiple sources: $125,000 from the city’s Capital Improvements Program, $250,000 from the Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation and $125,000 from property owners in the proposed block.

The grant application will request $500,000 from the state of Iowa to put toward the project. The city will be notified in May or June if it has been awarded the grant,  and construction would begin next year.

This project fits in with ORLF’s Reclaim Main Street initiative, said ORLF president and CEO Brad Little.

“Last week you discussed the notion of pride in Ottumwa,” Little said. “Just as the saying goes, the beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the same goes for pride.”

In October, an Iowa Economic Development Authority team helped the city immediately connect the downtown facade program with an opportunity to revive downtown Ottumwa.

The team also made clear its expectations, Little said, which include collaboration, multiple funding partners, investment by the property owners involved and a “wow factor.”

“This will allow us to keep the momentum going down Main Street,” he said. “It’s a great example of what pride in your community can look like.”

Klimek said the location of this project would be a strategic piece in the revitalization of downtown, adding on to successful renovations of the KMGO building and Appanoose Rapids Brewing Company, as well as the Market on Main in process right now and ORLF’s Capri V Theatre renovations down the block.

“Let’s keep our fingers crossed,” said Councilman Brian Morgan.

Councilman Mitch Niner said it’s a shame the last two property owners could not be reached to participate in the project.

“Yes, it is, but we’re happy with the level of participation we do have,” Klimek said. “We’ve gone through extensive lengths to reach them. Both property owners reside outside of Ottumwa and frankly are not easy to track down.”