Gowrie: advancing on many fronts

Housing, downtown storefronts are getting the attention they need

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
Gowrie Mayor Gayle Redman brushes snow off the new playground equipment recently installed in Laurel Park. The old slide and some swings will be refurbished and put back up in the park.

GOWRIE — From green spaces to the downtown storefronts, changes are coming to Gowrie.

One key goal is to offer more housing for new families, said Mayor Gayle Redman.

“Our biggest focus right now is to get our housing supply built up, to provide more houses,” Redman said.

The city just sold the last lot in its newest housing development, the Wiley Addition. Because people still want to build in a new addition, the city now plans to add on.

“The city is trying to put together a project to make a new housing development that would create another 10 lots,” Redman said. “We’re right in the middle of getting that going.”

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
Brockett Park in Gowrie sports a new sign this year. The Kensington Club donated signs for all three city parks in town this year. The park also has a new little league field.

This will extend the street in the Wiley Addition farther south, Redman said, eventually adding another street

“Right now there’s a lot of empty lots in Gowrie that we would like to have infilled, you know, houses built on that. But a lot of people don’t want to build a brand new house next to several old ones. They’d like to have a new housing development. So we’re trying to have options for everyone.”

The city already has an incentive program to help builders put up new houses. This spring, construction will begin on the first project using this program, Redman said.

“We will give 10 percent of the cost of your project as a grant, basically up front, so you can purchase your lot with it potentially or at least get started with construction,” she said. “We have tax abatement in Gowrie, but we’re finding that people may need help with the initial costs of building, rather than getting the benefit over a 10-year period later.

“Younger families, they’re just getting started, but they need a little help on the down payment to get started on construction.”

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
Once the Gowrie News, this store at right will be a new shop owned by Marcie Boerner. Currently paper covers the windows until the store is ready.

The city had a downtown assessment done this year by the Iowa Economic Development corporation. This will help the city when applying for grants and seeking improvements in the future. Right now, the city is in the process of applying for a facade grant to revitalize its downtown, said Phil DeCastro, Gowrie Development Commission president.

“The downtown assessment was part of the facade grant program,” he said. “We’re moving forward with that. We’ve got the engineers and architects looking at it, which is also part of the program to apply for it. We’ve gotten a lot of interest from local business owners that are involved in the downtown area.”

The downtown assessment showed improving these facades was one of the top things people found important, Redman said.

When they visited in September, the experts were impressed by the people’s passion for Gowrie. They also suggested ways to improve and pointed out areas that need work.

“Nearly everyone that the Downtown Assessment Team interviewed indicated how much they love Gowrie,” the team wrote in their assessment. “Elected officials, downtown stakeholders and residents are passionate about the community, and realize the importance of the downtown area. The town is rich with amenities and downtown has a strong core of service businesses, many of whom have served the needs of the community for many years.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Heartland Bank President/CEO Kevin Black, at left, along with Ashley Hanson, loan administrative clerk, stand at the pod used by bank employees to help customers as they walk into the newly built building in July 2017.

“Community leaders and residents want to see business growth and physical improvements made to buildings and public spaces. Residents also see a need for events and activities that provide entertainment for locals, draw visitors and establish the downtown as a place to be.”

Work has been done in Gowrie’s city parks, DeCastro said.

“A lot of green space work has been done in the last year, with our Laurel Park where the disc golf course is,” he said. “There was the new playground equipment that was put in, which was really awesome. We were able to put in a structure with three slides, a little rock climbing thing.

“We’re going to be rehabilitating some of the old playground equipment and reinstalling that. We’re about 80 percent done.”

The city felt Laurel Park was underutilized, Redman said, and made the investment to make it more useful. The equipment was installed right as the weather grew colder, so the children haven’t had much time to play on it; but she expected it would prove popular in the spring.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Kevin Black, President/CEO of the Heartland Bank in Gowrie, poses in the new community room that's part of the nearly finished building in July 2017.

The Brent Steck memorial field was installed at Brockett Park, which is behind the grocery store and Security Savings Bank, DeCastro said. The city now has two little league fields in that park, a central location that also has bathrooms and a concession stand.

And a tentative location has been found for the city’s planned dog park, a project DeCastro is heading up.

“We’ve just secured a location that we will be putting one in,” he said. “And it will be a lot of work. We’re still looking for donations for that. I hope to hit the ground running pretty hard come spring.”

Also over the past year, Heartland Bank completed the move to its new building in June, located just down the street from its historic building. Construction took about one year.

“The facility turned out really well,” said Kevin Black, bank president and chief executive officer. “It is a single floor. It has an atrium with a 19- or 20-foot ceiling on the main lobby area. It’s quite a change. We are pretty proud of it. That’s for sure.”

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
Patti Anderson explains her long-arm quilting machine in the front room at her shop, Patti's Quilting and Gifts, in September 2017. She operated her quilting business out of her home for years, but appreciates having the extra space of a storefront.

The building also features a community room that can accommodate 155 people, with an on-site kitchen.

The bank’s old location, in a 108-year-old building, isn’t just sitting empty. As Heartland moved out two new businesses moved in.

Patti’s Quilting and Gifts opened a few months after the bank moved. Owner Patti Anderson shares the space with the Hairology by Courtney salon, run by Anderson’s daughter-in-law Courtney Anderson.

Along with quilts and quilting items, Patti Anderson sells consignment and gift items, including unique artwork from Haiti which Anderson discovered on one of her mission trips.

With the Gowrie News under new management, that publication has moved to a new building. The old building is now owned by Marcie Boerner, DeCastro said.

“And she’s been doing a lot of renovation in there,” he said. “It looks to be close to being open. That’s going to be a decoration-type consignment, more of the one-off stuff. A lot of handmade stuff

“She’s done a lot to the facade. The windows, the inside — it’s going to look really nice in there.”

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
A bank building since 1910, Patti Anderson purchased the property after Heartland Bank relocated and transformed it into a quilt shop, gift store and hair salon, in this September 2017 file photo.