After two and a half days of meeting with community members and as the initial presentation stretch to an hour and a half, Jim Thompson, business/housing specialist with Iowa Downtown Resource Team, was blunt when summarizing the results of the downtown assessment conducted in Anamosa Nov. 21.
“You are always going to get the downtown you deserve,” Thompson said. “We rolled into town and saw all the opportunities. What we heard for two and a half days were all the problems. (It’s) time to take advantage of your opportunities.”
To make a difference, Thompson urged the community to work with them and pair themselves with progressive property owners that want to invest in the community.
The team of experts that had been meeting with students and community leaders each had certain takeways. Jeff Geerts said with the research and survey conducted before they arrived, there wasn’t much that surprised the group.
“The comments, the ideas, the suggestions that we got in the various focus groups and interviews that we conducted here were very consistent with what we saw on the survey,” he said.
The general findings of the assessment team largely aligned with the downtown studies that were conducted in 2002 and 2010.
“These are good reports that appear to us that nothing happened (with them),” Thompson said. “If you leave this report on a shelf that collects dust, that’s on you.”
Darlene Strachan, assistant coordinator at Main Street Iowa, echoed Thompson.
“There’s opportunity. There is room for growth. It’s up to you though, and remember: no decision, is a decision,” she said.
Nick Sorensen, who works in the City of Jefferson in economic development, went over the city’s buildings. While he said the old buildings had good bones, steps needed to be taken. He suggested ideas like a vacant building resolution and that the city adopt building codes, but on one condition.
“Do not enact any code if you are not willing to enforce it,” he said. “Act upon it and use it.”
Dennis Reynolds, the groups design guru, discussed some of the aesthetic changes he believed could help the downtown. Reynolds discussed making one side of the street vertical parking, adding shrubbery and being more creative with the use of signage and visual flairs.
Reynolds also touted the conversation the group had with the students at the Anamosa High School and the need discussed to have someplace for youth to gather in the downtown area.
The final report will be finished up over the next four to five weeks, depending on the holiday scheduling, and a presentation will likely be given on the full report after the new year, once the new council are in place.