Public offers input on Main Street Iowa projects

Just over 50 people attended the Sept. 14 Main Street Iowa public workshop. Officials from IEDA highlighted the goal of MSI and where Monticello sits within its demographics. (Photos by Kim Brooks)

Those in attendance broke into small groups to discuss project ideas for the future of Monticello.
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     A little over 50 people attended the Sept. 14 public work session on Main Street Iowa.

   The event was held at the Monticello Heritage and Cultural Center.

   Leading the meeting were three individuals with the Iowa Economic Development Authority: Robin Bostrom, Carol Lilly, and Michael Wagler.

   The two-hour event started off by providing some background on MSI, its processes, an economic summary of Monticello, and results of the community survey. Then, those in attendance were asked to provide their own ideas and suggestions for Monticello MSI, looking to the end of 2022, 2023, and 2025.

   “MSI program is geared as an accelerant for communities that have things going for, have some momentum, and have some energy,” explained Wagler. “It’s an opportunity to really lean into the authentic experience that makes Monticello different than any other community in the State of Iowa, in the country. It’s the history, culture, the people, everyone who comes together in the downtown.”

   Lilly highlighted the four pillars of MSI: Economic Vitality, Promotion, Design, and Organization.

   Economic Vitality involves business retention/expansion, business recruitment, and property development.

   Promotion is the “activities that drive the social pieces of the community. Events and activities that bring people downtown,” offered Lilly.

   Organization is running the MSI non-profit organization and volunteer development.

   “It's the grassroots; all of you coming together and making this approach work in your community,” she said.

   Design is the look and feel of the downtown.

   Bostrom dove into the numbers that represent Monticello.

   “It’s really important to understand what you have and what your numbers are,” she said. “You’re not a very diverse community. That is another key thing you want to be looking at. It’s important to understand who are those new residents coming in to our communities.”

   The median age of Monticello is 43.9. For Iowa, it’s 39.4.

   “You have a lot of people in that 35-44 age range,” noted Bostrom. “You have people coming back to your community; young families are coming back. This shows that.”

   The average household size for Monticello is 2.16; 2.43 for Iowa.

   “In rural areas, we’re not seeing the large families anymore,” said Bostrom. “Average household size affects how people shop, how they spend money, what they do for activities.”

   Monticello’s median income sits at $57,734; in Iowa it’s $60,413.

   “That’s still a really good strong number. In some of our MSI communities, I see that number in the $30,000s,” offered Bostrom. “That shows us that there is more disposable income in your community.”

   Bostrom also pointed out that Monticello lacks in housing options.

   “Your vacancy rate is quite a bit lower, definitely lower than Iowa and the U.S.,” she said. “I was told houses sometimes never hit the market here; they’re sold through word of mouth or if you know somebody.”

   She added that if there are no housing options, people will look to live elsewhere.

   When it came to the MSI survey, 301 people, or 7 percent of Monticello’s population filled it out. The majority of respondents were between the ages of 25-54 and over 54 years.

   Some survey results…

   Where do you take visitors? Top answers were parks and trails, local restaurants, Whiffle Tree Mercantile, and “out of town.”

   What is your favorite local event? Friday nights, Fourth of July, and “haven’t attended an event.”

   What event would you like to see brought to Monticello? Music-oriented, streets festivals, food/wine/beer/coffee events, and fall/winter events.

   What new business do you desire? Restaurants, brewery/bars, and retail.

   Those in attendance were asked to offer ideas for something MSI can accomplish by the end of 2022, by the end of 2023, and by the end of 2025. Here were some ideas…

   End of 2022: Improve holiday lights, cleanup the storefronts, increase window marketing, change the city sign ordinance, and improve the cooperation between businesses.

   End of 2023: Fresh paint on buildings, two to three downtown apartments for rent, more downtown businesses, more ADA parking, a downtown mural (potential Eagle Scout project), and connect the trails to the downtown.

   End of 2025: two to three new businesses, establish a large downtown fall event, cohesive streetscape plan, extend business hours, three to four downtown apartments, increased tourism, and more community events in the Community Building.

   As the Monticello MSI board moves forward, their list of priorities includes: marking the downtown, downtown housing, a strong organization, providing education, and signage improvements.


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