Algona: Focusing on the arts

Dodge Street project, library renovation planned for 2018

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari
Lavon Schattschneider, of Algona, browses the shelves of the Algona Public Library for a book she hasn’t read yet. The library is in the process of fundraising for a renovation project which will improve many aspects of the building.

ALGONA — A major street project is set to begin in Algona this year that will improve the appearance of a part of town that hosts arts venues.

Two blocks of Dodge Street, in downtown Algona, are expected to be completely torn out and rebuilt, making the way for a new design that will give the area a more artistic look, according to Mayor Lynn Kueck.

“The city is trying to make a concerted effort to publicize and bring recognition to the arts and the culture of our city,” Kueck said.

Construction on the $1.75 million project is expected to begin as early as this summer.

Kueck said there was interest in upgrading the road because of the buildings located there, which include the Carnegie Library.

-Submitted graphic
A section of Dodge Street in Algona could look something like this when the project is complete.

That building was renovated a few years ago after being purchased by local businessman Brian Buscher, who created the Johanna Restoration Foundation Inc., named after his late mother.

“He saved the building,” Kueck said. “He had it tuckpointed — all the things that go with a brick building.”

It will eventually house the Stinson Prairie Arts Council, which was established by the Haggard Twogood Charitable Trust.

Kueck said the council has dedicated years to promoting and displaying the arts in Algona.

Just north of the Carnegie Library is Lichter Fine Arts, an art studio gallery — owned by Mindy Lichtor, a Bishop Garrigan graduate — that is set to open in the spring.

-Messenger photo by Emilie Nelson Jenson
The Carnegie Library building will house the Stinson Prairie Arts Council.

She graduated from Iowa State University, where she majored in fine arts, according to Kueck.

“Not only does she do her own artwork, she teaches classes to school-age children and adult classes,” Kueck said.

The building Lichter is working out of has been completely remodeled, according to Kueck.

The Kossuth County Historical Society is also located along Dodge Street.

“They are going to tell the history of the arts in Algona,” Kueck said. “All these pieces are coming together to highlight, recognize, and give priority to the arts in our city.”

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari
Nicole Richart, of Algona, plays some games on a computer at the Algona Public Library. The library is fundraising for a renovation project that will improve may aspects of the building.

State Street, the city’s main retail district, will also see some improvements, Kueck said.

“The council decided since that’s only a one-block stretch from Carnegie to downtown, they thought let’s go one block north and keep that same motif going,” he said. “If we are going to make one block look good, let’s make two blocks look good.”

Kueck said as time and funds allow, the city will continue to look at ways to continue its redesign.

The pavement, including utilities, will need to be removed.

“All the water pipes and everything, that will all be brand-new,” Kueck said.

-Messenger photo by Emilie Nelson Jenson
Some old streets will get more than a facelift in Algona’s long-range plan to enhance its downtown. This view is looking north on Dodge Street.

The new pavement will include colored pavers.

Kueck said plows used to have trouble with pavers, but that problem has since been solved.

The colors and exact design of the pavement has yet to be determined.

“The whole setting will be quite nice,” Kueck said.

Dodge Street isn’t the only part of Algona that’s planning an upgrade.

At the Algona Public Library, fundraising is underway for a remodel project that has been in the works for about a year.

Library Director Mara Strickler said so far, approximately $1.2 million in private donations have been raised.

“We’ve made great progress, but there’s still a lot left to be done,” she said. “We’re continuing to pursue other funding sources and private donations.”

The renovation is expected to make several improvements to the library.

“The main improvement we’re hoping to make is open up the youth department so that there’s more room for children to be able to play and for families to be able to enjoy that selection and collection of the library,” Strickler said. “We also plan to make the adult shelves more ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessable so that all the materials are easier for all people of all mobilities easier to reach.”

Other not-so-apparent changes to the library include infrastructure improvements, including improving the heating/ventilation and air conditioning system.

Strickler said she believes the public will enjoy the improvements to the library, which includes providing “a more comfortable and welcoming space to patrons, which is a key part of the public feeling comfortable here and enjoying spending time here.”

She went on to say the improvements will “better serve people of all physical abilities and that’s, again, part of the mission of the public library.”