Downtown development an opportunity to rebrand Marshalltown

Marshalltown has the chance to make lemonade out of lemons.

The tornado destroyed downtown as we knew it, but it also opened a chance for rebuilding and rebranding. A community’s downtown is a key indicator of its success. A flourishing, vibrant, visually-appealing downtown makes life better for residents and also attracts newcomers.

It’s not to say that our downtown wasn’t great before the tornado, but we have a chance to make it much better. With a downtown master plan in the works and several major developments happening with buildings that were hit hard by the tornado, the future of downtown looks bright.

But it’s not going to happen overnight, in a few months or even a few years. A complete revitalization of downtown takes efforts from everyone — the city, the county, the Central Business District, the Chamber, individual businesses and most importantly residents.

Many residents have said they’d like to see restoration of some of the original facades exposed by the tornado. Others want to see major renovations in downtown — which would certainly be magnificent. But there seems to be a misconception that this revamp is entirely on the local government and businesses. It’s naive to believe that residents don’t play a part.

If residents want a revitalized downtown, they need to support downtown businesses.

If you want to better understand what business owners are going through post-tornado, ask them. Most of them will tell you it hasn’t been easy. There have been many obstacles, not only with recovery at their businesses but construction from nearby businesses that impacts them. But nearly all of them are finding ways to do business despite the incredibly difficult circumstances.

If you want to know the difficult decisions the city and county face in recovery efforts, particularly with downtown restoration, attend a city council or board of supervisors meeting. Not a meeting since the storm has been exempt of some discussion about the tornado and its impact. The city and county have to weigh the resident impact, financially and otherwise, from the past, present and future as it makes decisions.

Yes, Marshalltown has an opportunity to make downtown better than it was before. But that doesn’t mean residents get to sit back and dream up a fairytale district — we have to make it happen. If we are truly Marshalltown Strong, we will support the efforts in revitalizing downtown, which includes supporting local businesses and better understanding the decisions are local representatives have to make.