After years of planning, research and coordinated collaboration by many organizations, the Downtown Ottumwa Master Streetscape Project has been given the green light by the Ottumwa City Council and will formally be moving forward. This is an exciting time for Ottumwa as its literal “heart” will soon be given a jump start. For the Legacy Foundation, improvements to the downtown streetscape are included in our Reclaiming Main Street Initiative which has also encompassed the two-way street conversion, façade improvements, Canteen Alley – phase I and phase II, Rushing Way parking lot, Market on Main, the Ottumwa Theater, Bookin Innovation Center, upper story housing and Quiet Zones. We remain committed to the streetscape as a final piece to the downtown revitalization puzzle as demonstrated in our $2.4 million dollar commitment to this $6.1 million dollar project. Other financial partners include the Ottumwa Waterworks who has committed $663,000 to the project and the City of Ottumwa who has committed $3.1 million. Area 15 Regional Planning and Main Street Ottumwa will soon be submitting two Community Development Block Grants to the state that total $1.6 million, which would substantial reduce the commitments of all three financial partners.

The scope of this project encompasses the 100, 200 and 300 blocks of Main Street from building front to building front and includes new water and storm sewer and sanitary infrastructure improvements. Other elements above ground included in the project are; new sidewalks, lighting, seating, public art, trees, plantings as well as sustainability elements such as permeable pavers and bioswales. The Streetscape Task Force, with the assistance of Genus Landscape Architects, are currently working on finalizing documents and communicating with various stakeholders. The project is expected to come to bid in February of 2019 and expected to conclude by November of 2020.

In a project such as this it is easy to focus only on the aesthetics. And, of course, that is an important part. But we want to take a moment to remind everyone that this project is also about safety…and it’s about economic development. It’s about that company that is secretly shopping us but decides that we aren’t a good investment when we leave the impression that we don’t take care of our infrastructure. It’s about that doctor who is being recruited to provide a specialty badly needed by our residents, but after the spouse visits downtown says no to moving here. And, it’s about visitors to our community who love coming to Ottumwa to have dinner at El Rancho or to shop at the O’Town Marketplace but avoid the practice simply because of the condition of the sidewalks or the quality of the lighting.

And those are just a few of the reasons it is important to us.