Monticello downtown assessment report: Part 2

By: 
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     This is a multiple-part series on the City of Monticello’s Downtown Assessment Report, as conducted by the Iowa Downtown Resource Center and Iowa Economic Development Authority. This was a partnership between the city and Jones County Economic Development.

Theme 2: Community Connections

     How can visitors to Monticello locate the downtown? What routes can people take to bring then downtown?

     With so many businesses and services downtown, “many opportunities to leverage those assets will be missed if people can’t find your downtown.”

     After walking downtown and driving the community, the assessment team came up with a few connectivity issues that if addressed, would improve the overall downtown environment.

     Drivers from the south on Highway 151 are encouraged to take the first exit they see for Amber Road/County Road X-44. The second exit, though, to Oak Street, provides a shorter, more scenic route to the downtown.

     “Identify opportunities for attractive, artistic directional signage at the Highway 151/Oak Street interchange to encourage vehicle traffic to use this exit,” urged the assessment team. “Once vehicle traffic uses this exit, it’s important to implement attractive and welcoming anchors.”

     One such anchor, they suggest, is converting the former Energy building at E. First Street and Main Street into a covered pavilion/community event space and park, connecting the downtown to the Willow Trail system.

     In addition, the team took people’s sentiments about eliminating heavy truck traffic to heart, and encouraged the city to find alternative routes for semi/agriculture truck traffic. They suggest using S. Cedar Street for this purpose. However, the city would need to explore those options with the DOT, as First Street is a state highway (38).

     Another way to look at Monticello’s downtown is through two different perspectives.

     The downtown is almost 2,000 feet long. “People will often walk up to 1,000 feet without giving it much thought or think of it as going on a walk.”

     So, we have two downtowns. The eastern 1,000 feet is more auto-oriented and seems to be service focused with Spahn & Rose Lumber Company, Theisen’s, and pharmacy businesses. The western 1,000 feet is pedestrian friendly with some star architectural buildings, and is retail and entertainment focused.

Action steps:

     • Work with economic development, tourism groups, and the Iowa DOT to develop attractive, strategically placed signs directing visitors where you want them to go

     • Work to sign a truck route so heavy trucks know where you want them to go

     • Investigate options to use the old Energy building as a community gateway feature and to connect the downtown to the trail system

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