A shift in perception

Main Street FD focused on 2021 successes and beyond

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Traffic moves along Central Avenue Thursday evening. With a high number of new businesses opening in the past year, Main Street Fort Dodge is optimistic about the future of downtown.

An Asian grocery store and a bakery are just two examples of new businesses that will soon occupy space in downtown Fort Dodge as the city’s center looks to build on momentum gained in 2021, according to Kris Patrick, director of Main Street Fort Dodge.

Patrick presented information relating to the progress of downtown during Monday’s City Council meeting.

“Downtown Fort Dodge has seen a lot of progress in 2021 and I see that continuing in 2022,” said Patrick, who is in her fourth year leading Main Street Fort Dodge, a nonprofit which seeks to revitalize and market the city’s historic downtown. “There are very exciting things going on and we are getting more and more calls from developers to put in housing and open commercial space. We are hopping here in downtown. There is great momentum and people are noticing. There are people as far away as New Jersey and New York noticing what’s happening here.”

2021 has seen 12 new businesses open in the downtown. In 2018, four new businesses opened.

“Twelve new businesses moved into the downtown this past year,” Patrick said. “That’s a really big number. We have never seen that number before.”

Patrick reported that since 2017, there has been $17.9 million of investments in the downtown.

In regards to the Asian grocery store, Patrick said on Thursday that few details are available about the development. During her presentation to Council, Patrick shared that the store is to be located at 12 N. Seventh St.

“There will be an Asian market sometime after the first of the year,” Patrick said. “We are really excited that the owners of a market in another community found an opportunity here in Fort Dodge and we are looking forward to seeing how that unfolds.”

In a separate development, Yummy Crumb Bakery, which received a state Challenge Grant in 2019, will soon be opening at 13 N. 11th St.

Another Challenge Grant was awarded to development in Fort Dodge in October.

The grant totaling $75,000 went to Danny Heggen, of HOM Investments 2 LLC, to redevelop the Hower Block.

The Hower Block is located at 1109 Central Ave. It includes six apartments and a first floor retail space. K.D.’s Over The Moon antique store opened in that space in recent weeks.

“I want to see Main Street Iowa come back to life,” Heggen said previously. “These are amazing buildings and we need to find properties where we can to work with the city and the state to bring these buildings back to life. People deserve quality housing and we want to provide a place where they can be safe and secure.”

Strong collaboration between public and private entities is one reason for Main Street’s recent success, Patrick said.

“I think the fact that Main Street has been a strong liaison between businesses and the city about ordinance changes and how to reprogram these empty buildings,” Patrick said. “That would be the strongest momentum driver — those public private partnerships — and using other funding sources that have not been in Fort Dodge before.”

Patrick credited some of Fort Dodge’s property owners for their commitment.

“The property owners and businesses themselves, they really take pride in what they do and what they can give the city and residents of Fort Dodge,” Patrick said. “By (Main Street) giving them that support and being their cheerleader, they have gained the confidence to move forward with expansions. Even through the pandemic we have had businesses expand through their brick and mortar store or online. It’s really incredible the changes in the downtown.”

In recent years, over 10 facades in dowtown have seen significant upgrades.

One of the trends among some downtown businesses has involved working together. Those efforts will continue with more buildings, Patrick said.

“Another cool trend we have seen is having existing business expand inside their storte and market someone else’s products in their store,” Patrick said. “I think we will see that trend continue in the new year.”

Personal Expressions, Indigo Lotus Salon, Tillie’s Quilts and Salon Central, are just some of the businesses who are part of that trend.

Clean, safe and friendly

Part of the effort to change the perception of the downtown has involved creating a cleaner, safer and friendlier space.

A security camera system to put eyes around the downtown is one project geared at improving safety.

That system, worth close to $200,000 has been installed.

“It is fun down here and is becoming more safe all the time,” Patrick said. “Our cameras are downtown and working right now.”

Another project has improved the cleanliness aspect. Students from Fort Dodge Senior High and youth from all the schools in Fort Dodge can be thanked for that.

“One of the biggest impact projects was the “Pick It Up Fort Dodge” project,” Patrick said. “That partnership with students and youth students all over the city produced some really colorful and beautiful receptacles. We see so little trash going around now compared to when those receptacles were installed.”

Patrick said another round of receptacles will be installed in the future.


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