Adjacent to Highway 2 in southwest Iowa, New Market is a community full of potential. The foundation is in place for greatness, thanks in large part to a committed group of community volunteers. They have challenged themselves to think outside the proverbial box. They have raised their hands to put in the hard work time and again, and they have convened their peers and pushed them to think about what projects could transform the community.
This placemaking action plan represents the culmination of that work to ensure the community thrives for decades to come—a future that, for many the size of New Market, isn’t guaranteed. With continued commitment and perseverance in implementing the projects laid out here, New Market will continue down the path of creating a future for itself vastly different than those of its peers.
COORDINATED HOUSING INITIATIVE
As is the case in almost every community, large or small, one of New Market’s greatest challenges is housing. In New Market, this manifests itself as an issue of both quantity and quality. According to the US Census Bureau, nearly 51 percent of the housing units were built in 1939 or earlier. The challenge of this older housing stock is compounded by, according to visioning participants, a lack of pride in upkeep from some property owners. This multi-faceted challenge necessitates a dynamic strategy that addresses both existing housing as well as potential new housing.
To begin, the New Market housing initiative should focus on four key components that, executed properly, have the potential to transform the community’s housing situation and parlay that into further community success.
A recurring theme throughout Iowa is the presence of dilapidated housing stock. Beyond a lack of pride from owners, some owners live elsewhere, while others simply lack the funds for maintenance and enhancements. Still, the presence of dilapidated homes greatly diminishes – or completely erases – the possibility of someone passing through the community potentially moving to New Market. By allowing dilapidated homes to exist in perpetuity, the City, in some ways, condones this behavior, ultimately diminishing values of both the property in question and adjacent properties.
To overcome this, New Market must develop property maintenance standards, shifting maintenance from an option to a legal requirement, protecting and growing property values throughout the community while also protecting the health, safety, and welfare of residents.
The purpose of the property maintenance code is to protect the public health, safety, and welfare, aesthetics, and property values by establishing minimum standards for maintenance, appearance, condition, and occupancy, and for essential utilities, facilities, and other physical components and conditions to make residential premises fit for human habitation.
To complement the property maintenance standards, New Market should develop a blight remediation program. With a number of blighted properties spread throughout the community, the blight remediation program will provide a framework for the City with which to strategically move forward.
The first step in establishing the program is to inventory the blighted properties. The inventory should include basic information such as the parcel address, ownership information, and tax history as well as information on the structure itself. Does the building have broken windows that need to be boarded up? Is the paint peeling? Is the building structurally unsafe with easy access? Is there junk in the yard?
With this initial assessment completed, the properties should be divided into two categories: Those slated for demolition and those with a chance of being rehabilitated.
Within the demolition category, the City must determine if the property owner is willing complete the demolition themselves or if they are willing to turn over the property. If not, there are a number of routes the City can use to secure the property, including repeated fines through the property maintenance standards.
Once the property is secured and the demolition cost is known for all properties, officials should prioritize the properties using a scoring matrix. Among other things, it should consider whether the structure is a safety hazard, its structure (is it highly visible?), and the desired parcel use, if identified. Using the scores, the parcel owners, in collaboration with the City, should seek funds for demolition, looking to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Southern Iowa Council of Governments, and the revolving loan program detailed in the following section.
Within the rehabilitation category, plans must clarify if the property will be updated while maintaining the existing use or if a new use will occupy the structure. As part of this process, costs for the rehabilitation also should be determined. At this point, property owners may submit an application for assistance through the revolving loan fund. Points to consider when reviewing applications include the type of enhancement, the project location (again, is it highly visible?), and the percentage of project funds that will come from the owner.
For both demolition and rehabilitation projects, officials should prioritize remedying buildings that present public safety concerns and those that are highly visible, such as those visible from Highway 2, Main Street, and the park.
A citywide revolving loan fund (RLF) should be created to allow homeowners to make improvements to their structures. The RLF could be created using bonds or Tax Increment Financing (TIF) revenues and also could include private sector funds. The funding pool would prioritize forgivable loans as well as low-interest loans. For instance, the forgivable loans could be structured to offer $10,000 for specific home improvements. These may include:
- Update of aged or unsafe heating, air conditioning, electrical and plumbing systems
- Roof repair or replacement
- Foundation repair
- Exterior siding repair or replacement and paint
- Window and door repair or replacement (if in poor condition repair or for energy efficiency)
- New garage, garage repair or replacement (maximum 2 car garage, 24’ X 24’)
- Energy efficiency (insulation, windows, mechanical upgrades)
- Access/architectural barrier removal and wheelchair or mobility assistive device
- Sidewalk and driveway repair or replacement
- Interior repairs and updates
- Functional landscaping (grading and retaining walls for water and erosion control, significant tree removal or trimming)
The loan would be forgiven over the course of five years, with $2,000 forgiven each year. By offering this incentive, people become more likely to purchase a home and to make improvements, ultimately growing the New Market tax base. As it becomes more established, the RLF also should include funds for new development such that further development may be enticed to the community.
With a number of homes already demolished in early 2018 and more that will be demolished through the blight remediation program, New Market will have a significant number of vacant parcels ready for redevelopment within the City limits. To encourage new development on these parcels, New Market should launch an infill incentive program.
Infill development focuses on vacant lots in areas that are otherwise developed. It re-establishes the small town feel of a community and helps a community maximize its existing infrastructure investments rather than developing on the periphery.
The City’s infill incentive program should encourage the construction of single-family homes, duplexes, and multi-family structures; visioning session participants noted the limited availability of rental units. Potential incentives include reduced lot costs, waived building permit fees, utility incentives, and tax abatements.
The infill incentive program could be furthered by working with area partners to offer unique incentives like free memberships, reduced daycare rates, or fuel cards.
According to Farmers Mutual Telephone Company, there are not many US consumers with access to a fiber-to-home network. In fact, only about 5 percent of consumers – including those in New Market – have fiber-to-home availability. What does this mean for New Market? In short, better reliability and higher speeds that can accommodate both personal and business needs.
With this connectivity, New Market is well-positioned for future economic success. While this connectivity means that many people work from their homes, many of these individuals would like to have someplace besides their basement to work. A coworking space will fill this gap and also signal to outsiders that New Market is open for business; you don’t have to have a pricey office or buy a whole building. If you’re an entrepreneur or have the ability to work remotely, New Market has the infrastructure you need to connect to the rest of the world.
Besides a change of scenery, another benefit of a coworking space is the opportunity to make the natural connections that spring forth in a shared environment. Coworking spaces are known to breed innovation, which will further the businesses represented there. As envisioned, the coworking space will nurture these natural connections as well as an entrepreneurial spirit in the community, in turn enhancing the prospects for the creation of more businesses.
For the coworking space to truly thrive, it is important that it be highly visible and highly accessible. As such, the property at 403 Main Street stands as the optimal coworking space in New Market. The building is owned by the New Market Foundation, a longtime community leader with a vested interest in the community’s continued progress. Further, the stone building is architecturally intriguing, another hallmark for successful coworking spaces.
To speed the creation of the coworking space, the New Market Foundation should act as the incubator for the space. Normally, a new nonprofit would be formed, but, given New Market’s small size, it will be best to tap into the existing group. Further, since the Foundation owns the target building, there will be no need to transfer property or enter any lease agreements.
Beyond the coworking space, the Foundation should add housing on the second floor of the building. This would provide yet another revenue stream for the Foundation and help address the housing shortage in New Market.
Each year, New Market’s park is the hub of the community’s 4th of July activities. The park hosts the famous pie contest and auction and other events for the thousands of people that descend upon the community. The park, though, is not the most welcoming environment for these visitors.
Likewise, the entrance to the community off of Highway 2 is easy to miss. A flagpole accompanies the brick community sign and planter, and some trees are planted to the east of the Main Street along 220th Street. While the trees are a great start, the City needs to imagine and expect a new level of investment that demonstrates to passersby that the community invests in itself and is the kind of community they might like to live in.
New Market should begin its beautification efforts at its gateway. According to the Iowa Department of Transportation, about 2,000 automobiles per day passed by this stretch in 2016. People notice these kinds of investments and are often enticed into the community to see what else is happening there.
Consequently, the community should seek to extend the beautification theme developed for the gateway throughout the community. Priority should be placed on Main Street and then lead residents and visitors to the park. The community should consider trees, lamp posts with hanging baskets, plantings, special pavers, and street furniture to begin. Creating a consistent tone throughout the community will create a unique sense of place throughout New Market and encourage more people to move there. It also may compel people in town for the 4th of July festivities to return at other points throughout the year, further supporting the local economy.
There are a number of programs that support beautification efforts, including the Trees Please! program from MidAmerican Energy and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ Trees for Kids program and City Parks & Open Spaces program. The Iowa Department of Transportation’s Iowa Living Roadway Trust Fund offers a number of resources as well. Additionally, the Iowa West Foundation has prioritized placemaking grants, especially those focused on community beautification.
MIXED USE CENTER
While the park and Miner Pavilion anchor the west side of town, the eastern portion of New Market is anchored by the downtown commercial corridor along Main street. Between 4th and 5th Streets, the corridor’s east side is home to the Sawmill Bar & Grill, the library, Keane Thummel Trucking, and, potentially, the coworking space.
The west side stands in stark contrast. Just a few buildings remain on the block. Some are structurally unsafe; in fact, some community members will not walk on this side of the street in fear of what may happen if a large gust of wind were to come along. Some people may see this as a hopeless situation, but it actually presents a prime opportunity for the community to reimagine its downtown.
The opportunity to reimagine downtown New Market comes in the form of a mixed-use center. In visioning sessions, community members shared a desire for a number of new amenities, with a daycare center landing at the top of the list. Rental housing came in as another top priority, and residents also expressed concern about possibly losing the local post office. Beyond those elements, residents are eager to have more community-focused activities for all ages.
A mixed-use center will allow the community to fulfill these desires in a single building, enabling community members of all ages to take full advantage of the community’s amenities.
In New Market, one of the biggest concerns about moving forward with the mixed-use center is the need to temporarily move the post office. The post office is a key piece of the community’s identity, and local leaders are concerned that even a temporary move across the street could result in the post office’s permanent closure.
Ahead of the construction of the mixed-use center, local leaders should build a relationship with Senator Joni Ernst’s office. Being that Senator Ernst is from the area and her record of supporting rural communities, Senator Ernst likely will take a keen interest in this potential issue and will help locals work with the US Postal Service should a potential closure come into play.
In either case, local leaders should work with an area architect and the US Postal Service (USPS) to understand key requirements for the new post office and to accommodate future needs of the USPS.
The USPS likely will lease the space rather than own it. This will ensure the building owner of a reliable tenant for part of the building as well as a steady revenue stream from the monthly rent.
A 2012 study commissioned by Northwest Iowa Development analyzed how post office closings would impact small communities. The study focused on nine small towns in northwest Iowa and concluded that closing small rural post offices “will be far less than the additional costs that will be placed on the businesses and residents in those communities.”
The report found that these nine communities, each with an average population of 180 people, would suffer economic losses five times greater than what the Postal Service would save. The economic losses would occur across a number of categories:
- Travel to another post office
- Lost business productivity
- Increases in other business costs
- Lost business and jobs
The complete report can be found in Appendix I.
According to a 2017 Iowa Child Care Resource & Referral report, 73 percent of families with children under age six in Taylor County had all parents working. This high percentage creates a significant demand for childcare in the area. That care, however, comes at a cost. For a family earning the median county income of $54,128 with an infant in childcare, they would pay 12 or 13 percent of their pre-tax income for childcare depending on if the care was provided in a registered home or in a licensed center. The full Taylor County report can be found in Appendix J.
|Child Care Rates
Average Per Week
|Registered Child Development Homes||DHS Licensed Centers/Preschools|
*Providers may charge by the month, week., day, or hour.
Source: Iowa Child Care Resource and Referral
The impact of these rates is further compounded by the need to travel out of town to obtain childcare. By developing a childcare center in New Market, local jobs are created and more people may be more compelled to stay in town to work.
The first key to success will be finding an owner/operator for the childcare center. This person should have significant experience and education in providing childcare. Furthermore, it will be imperative for the childcare center to hire well-trained teachers to ensure success. Local leaders should look to the Stanton Child Resource Center (SCRC) as a model for achieving this level of excellence. Though SCRC is working to be a regional childcare hub with its single Stanton location, it will be to the benefit of the entire region to explore the possibility of the New Market childcare center becoming a satellite location for SCRC. The distance between Stanton and New Market is far enough that some parents may opt for another provider in Clarinda or one of the other surrounding communities. By opening this satellite location, SCRC would be able to expand its network and, as a result, its revenues while filling a substantial regional need. For New Market, the benefit is even more obvious in that it would be able to tap into an existing infrastructure that is well known, well regarded, and well run.
Designed to complement the coordinated housing initiative, the second story of the mixed-use center should be designed to accommodate several apartments. These modern rentals will fill a void in the community and offer an entryway to living in New Market. Many people prefer to rent in a community to get a sense of where they would like to buy in the future. Additionally, the additional foot traffic from the second story residents will further the sense of vibrancy in downtown.
It is imperative for these second story units to have the modern amenities that young people want. Fiber connectivity, access to green space, and little to no maintenance are requirements for this demographic. The coworking space across the street will provide an outlet to connect with other community members, and the community activities described in the following section will help grow the feeling of connectivity in community newcomers.
Beyond the interior uses of the mixed-use center, the surrounding area presents significant opportunity for New Market. Given the uses on the east side of Main Street and the more community-oriented spirit of the southern end of that block, the mixed-use center also should be situated on the southern end of the block near 4th Street. The building will not need to stretch the entirety of the block, which will leave an area for community gathering on the north end of the block near 5th Street. During input sessions, New Market residents expressed a strong desire for another spot to interact and to enjoy family-friendly activities together.
This open space should be designed to build on the previously described community beautification strategy. It should include a community orchard, which will increase access to healthy fruit. The orchard will enable young people, including those at the childcare center, to learn where their food comes from, and it also will help bring residents together to care for and harvest from the trees. The orchard could be the impetus for other community events, such as blossom or harvest festivals, cider pressing event, canning workshops, and more. Orchard-specific events should be tied into the 4th of July celebration, too; for instance, a special auction of pies filled with fruit from the orchard could be held as an additional fundraiser.
Consider dedicating a portion of the funds generated from the 4th of July activities to financially support the events. Also consider partnerships with area school districts and libraries as well as the Iowa West Foundation. Look at national funding opportunities that support community building and access to the arts. Organizers may consider accepting free will donations at the events, but admission should only be charged if sufficient sponsorships are not secured.
During the visioning sessions, residents expressed an interest in outdoor movie nights and live music events. While the music events will take more effort to bring in artists, launching a community movie series is readily achievable. Selected movies should be family-friendly and should be shown every other week during the summer. Organizers should modify the frequency of the showings depending on the attendance.
Encourage movie attendees to pack picnics and come to the site about an hour before the movie starts. This will grow community cohesiveness and build a strong audience for the screenings. As the series generates more traction and the audience grows, consider adding occasional programming, such as music, dance, tumbling, etc., prior to the screening; give people a strong reason to come out and enjoy the evening.
- June 23: The Goonies
- June 30: Wonder Woman
- July 7: Ferdinand
- July 14: Jumanji
- July 21: The Greatest Showman
- July 28: Coco
- August 4: Thor: Ragnarok
- August 11: The Sandlot
- August 18: Black Panther
- August 25: The Princess Bride
With this placemaking process, New Market is positioning itself for a thriving future. Community leaders have stepped up and shown their commitment to ensuring New Market is around for decades to come. The real work, though, begins with implementation.
Community development work can take years to have an impact, and it often is through a series of small actions that one truly starts to feel that turning tide. There will be challenges and setbacks as New Market endeavors to bring the projects described in this action plan to life.
Potential developers may walk away from a deal, volunteers may step away from a project, funding may fall through, and political realities may shift. Community leaders must persist in the face of these challenges and hold steadfast to the vision of a vibrant New Market. Leadership groups throughout town must be intentional about blending more seasoned volunteers with emerging volunteers. This integrated learning opportunity will enrich all of the volunteers and strengthen social cohesiveness in New Market – a true key for future success.
Besides building the volunteer base, community leaders should continue pursuing and tapping into outside resources. Iowa State University Extension, SICOG, and the Iowa Area Development Group should be engaged almost immediately. Leaders should work to build a strong relationship with the Iowa West Foundation and strategically target additional funders outlined in Appendix K and Appendix L. Take the time to build these relationships now so that, when there is a funding need, New Market will be top of mind to secure funding. Additionally, look at what resources groups like Volunteer Iowa can help foster. This may include technical assistance or train the trainer programming, both of which will continue to enrich New Market.
With this plan and newfound energy, New Market is poised for future success. The key to that success, though, will be determined by the community’s dedication to this action plan and to building the partnerships described in the plan.
APPENDICES & RESOURCES
Appendix A: Visioning Session Results
Appendix B: Iowa Falls Property Maintenance Code
Appendix C: Mills County Building and Property Maintenance Code
Appendix D: Greene County Vision Matrix
Appendix E: Neighborhood Finance Corporation Home Improvement Loan
Appendix F: MidAmerican Energy Efficiency for Iowa Residents – Trees
Appendix G: Iowa DNR Trees for Kids
Appendix H: H. Iowa DNR City Parks Open Spaces
Appendix I: Impact of the Closure of Post Offices in Northwest Iowa
Appendix J: 2017 Taylor County Iowa Child Care Resource & Referral Report
Appendix K: Federal Resources for Funding Sustainable Communities
Appendix L: A Guide to Funding Resources
Appendix M: How to Write a Grant Proposal