Louise Carhart, Community Editor
The city of Grinnell will be changing in the next couple of years due to their recent earning of the Iowa Reinvestment Act.
This act, awarded to the city on June 15, means that the city will be able to reinvest $6.1 million in sales and hotel/motel taxes that would normally go to the state over the next twenty years. This exception was granted to the city after the second round of applications made to the state, with the final round of applications due February of 2016.
“There are exciting impacts to the Grinnell community,” wrote Laura Manatt, executive director of Poweshiek Iowa Development, in an email to The S&B.
These impacts include a new hotel and event space (to be located in the Grinnell Community Center), a renovation of Central Park and improvement of the “Zone of Confluence” between Grinnell College and downtown Grinnell.
“The ‘Zone of Confluence’ will create a gateway between campus and community. During the 2013 Visitor Experience Study, it was suggested that the ‘zone’ between campus and community be more vibrant with a range of 18-hour uses that would draw students from campus in to downtown, and vice-versa,” Manatt wrote. “By providing these new facilities and campus improvements, it enhances the overall campus visitor experience for students and prospective students.”
Over the summer, representatives from the College met with the City of Grinnell office to discuss how to move forward with the development of the Zone. Though this is the area of the project that would most impact students, it will not be complete for a couple of years.
“The ‘Zone of Confluence’ is making some steps forward … the College over the summer hired a design firm and has a financial team in place to work on development of the concept of the ‘Zone of Confluence,’” said Emily Counts, Tourism Director for the Grinnell Area Chamber of Commerce.
The renovations to Central Park will be the most immediate results of the Reinvestment Act. Additions of paths, new gathering spaces and a more functional performance platform are among the changes that have already been drawn up. Fundraising for the renovations will go public soon, but the city is confident they will easily be able to raise the necessary amount of funds.
“Central Park is located in the center of our community and serves as a gathering place for downtown residents, shoppers, visitors and community members. Central Park is positioned in a high traffic area in our community and is a natural location for outdoor events and festivals. We feel it is important to continue to invest in this downtown asset, so it remains a highly utilized area,” Manatt wrote.
Although the existing park contains open, green space, it is the hope that the new renovations will further open the park and expand options for play, performance and meeting. A new pavilion for outdoor shows is planned.
As for the greater Grinnell community, the goal of the Act is to improve the nightlife of the City and participation in downtown Grinnell culture.
“We’re really always trying to take care of the heart of Grinnell, which is the downtown. I think that’s a huge part of why we did so well [in the application process]” Counts said.
This commitment to the downtown area was unique during the application process, in which Grinnell was the only small town to present.
The City was also the only applicant intending to use the Act money in order to improve life within the center of town, as opposed to a peripehery project.
With Grinnell’s position as one of the larger communities in the immediate area, the money will be spent to improve the lives of not just Grinnell City residents, but also those in the surrounding area.
“People from all over Poweshiek County utilize the Grinnell area as their ‘hub’ for grocery shopping, eating out, attending community festivals, etc. These impacts will create an enhanced visitor experience for those [visitors] as well,” Manatt wrote.