Main Street announces $246,958 in private rehabilitation in downtown Fort Dodge

Main Street Fort Dodge Executive Director Kris Patrick and the organization’s president, Jim Bird, recently shared successes and upcoming projects.

“Downtown Fort Dodge has seen a lot of incremental progress over the last 18 months,” said Bird. “Private investment in property rehabilitation has reached $246,958 and private building acquisitions is $165,065. Since May 13, the state has updated their records to reflect downtown property sales of $482,500 and $306,958 in rehabilitation.”

Main Street Fort Dodge is a volunteer nonprofit organization that fosters public-private partnerships, to revitalize and market historic downtown Fort Dodge. It is governed by a board of nine downtown stakeholders and two at-large members. In January, Ryan Kehm was appointed as a downtown stake holder and Andy Sheffield, representing CJ Bio America, and Tim Doyle, representing Carpet World/Flooring America, became the first two at-large members.

The Main Street or Self-Sustaining Municipal Improvement District covers 33 square blocks in the heart of downtown reaching east to 13th Street, west to Third Street, south to Second Avenue South and north just past First Avenue North.

Since August of 2017, volunteers have contributed 5,552 hours valued at $133,084 to make downtown a stronger business environment.

“We have eight net new businesses in downtown, 9.3 percent uptake in operating businesses, nine building rehabilitations completed and added 32 jobs to the workforce,” explained Patrick. “Most people are surprised to learn there are currently 213 active businesses, 36 percent are service related, 20 are in the hospitality industry and 46 are retail based.”

Fort Dodge has one of the largest districts in the Main Street program, encompassing light industrial and manufacturing on both the east and west ends of the district.

The downtown collectively employs 1,187 workers in a large variety of fields, including attorneys, health related fields, insurance, five realty offices, four financial institutions, four publishing companies, nine auto service sites, and six churches. Residential units have increased from 349 in 2017 to 436 in 2019, housing 501 people in 377 units, an increase of 96 residents since the Main Street program began in August 2017.

Main Street is the only program in Fort Dodge devoted entirely to the success of the downtown, actively recruiting businesses and assisting others to expand,” said Patrick.

Main Street assists the city of Fort Dodge to reach its goals in the downtown plan included in the Re-Envision 2030 plan. Main Street Fort Dodge is working with guidance from Main Street Iowa to create a Design Review Committee addressing rehabilitation/restoration programs for historic structures.

In partnership, Main Street and the city applied for a Community Development Block Grant Downtown Revitalization grant in May. The state should notify the city by July 17 if the application has been approved.

“We continue to establish downtown design guidelines that complement traditional downtown structures by the continuous use of Main Street free Design Services” Bird said. “Nine new projects were implemented in February 2019, 24 renderings for facade improvements have been completed by Main Street Iowa at no cost to property owners or the city with a valued at just under $18,000.”

Main Street continues to promote and market the downtown through marketing and information partnerships with surrounding institutions and community areas. The Main Street Fort Dodge website was created in March 2018 to market historic downtown Fort Dodge. The site is being searched by name and monthly newsletters have good engagement with a reach of 695 and an open rate of 35 percent for Main Street Matters focused on downtown businesses.

The local program must document and market downtown through an annual scope of work and standards submitted to Main Street Iowa annual and updated monthly.

Main Street organized a retail group for monthly and quarterly cross promotions which has grown from six businesses to 15. The Economic Vitality team has organized a monthly group — Main Street Matters, to address different issues in the downtown at 5 p.m. on the second Tuesday, rotating locations. Businesses, employees, residents, and the general public are invited. The newest group to form is Downtown Hospitality Partners — hospitality venues which plan engaging events in the downtown reaching outside the Main Street boundaries west to Fourth Street, the Karl King Bridge and east to 15th Street.

“Main Street is an all-inclusive program. We know the success of one leads to the success of others,” said Patrick.

With these new partnerships, Main Street is fulfilling the entertainment district tenent that includes local restaurants, entertainment and retail activities. The sidewalk cafe and display ordinance has been amended to accommodate needs of business owners.

Fort Dodge participated in MSI Restaurant Week Sept. 14-23, 2018, with 11 of the 17 restaurants participating. The Downtown Hospitality Partners are planning 2019 MSI Restaurant Week Sept. 20-29 and Oktoberfest activities for the Sesquicentennial on Sept. 28.

Only $18,214 disbursements were made from the $60,557 of the special tax levy of the SSMID. Main Street increased its investor base 52 percent from last year working toward self-sustaining income to cover administrative costs of the program.

“We have made great strides, but are not near our goal yet. To date we have received revenue of $169,727 with expenses of $93,030 giving us a positive balance of $76,695,” reported Patrick in May. “We continue to be selective in SSMID fund expenditures and dedicate SSMID dollars to future SSMID projects.”

Three transformation strategies emerged from the market analysis conducted last fall: create a strong Main Street organization, create a strong downtown business environment, and create a clean and welcoming downtown. Main Street is working with the Parking Committee to publicize the city’s new Passport Parking system that will roll out later this summer.

“Our downtown employer base must increase for downtown to succeed,” said Bird. “We will continue to assist in developing housing and market our Opportunity Zone to d multi-use projects. Historic buildings are an asset not a deterrent!”

For more information on the Main Street program visit www.mainstreet fd.org or call 641-573-3172.

Kris Patrick is the executive director of Main Street Fort Dodge.