By Mike Whittlesey
“Successful planning is public action that generates a sustained and widespead private market reaction which improves the quality of life in the affected community.” ~Alex Garvin
Last year, the City Council of La Porte City selected MSA Professional Services to lead the process of developing a plan to revitalize downtown La Porte City. The comprehensive project is expected to take much of 2013 to complete, with adoption of a plan anticipated to occur sometime in October.
Local officials should be commended for taking this project on now, rather than waiting. Important work on La Porte City’s infrastructure has been on the front-burner in recent years, with the construction of a new water tower and the reconstruction of a portion of U.S. Highway 218 that runs through the heart of town. The highway project involved the cooperation of state, city and ultilities officials alike, allowing for the City to upgrade the water mains that run under the newly constructed highway.
It is only a matter of time before such work will be needed in downtown La Porte City. In addition to addressing water mains, it will also make sense for utility lines to be buried underground in the future. When such a time comes, it will be important for the City to have a well-constructed plan in place to guide the process.
Tearing up several blocks of Commercial Street (Highway 218) last year was an inconvenience for area residents. Now imagine that process running perpendicular to the highway, specifically in the 200, 300, 400 and 500 blocks of Main Street.
Why should we care about downtown La Porte City? These four city blocks, in their current state, contribute around $30,000 annually to City coffers in the form of property taxes. That amount is more than enough to pay for the City’s recreation program and Community Center operations. A walk up and down these four blocks of Main Street reveals a wide range of disparity in the buildings, sidewalks, curbs and streets.
At the last public meeting, MSA staff sought public input on potential issues related to revitalizing downtown La Porte City. The meeting was attended by a total of seven area residents. Given the recent weather and the fact that the meeting was held on a church night, the small turnout was not surprising.
Before a successful downtown revitalization plan can be created, answers to several questions are needed from ALL segments of our community. Has your voice been heard? The good news is that you still have time to participate. The Progress Review has posted a short video presentation at www.theprogressreview.co from the last public meeting. We encourage you to view it and use the form online to submit your input on the future of downtown La Porte City. The information you provide will be forwarded to the Steering Committee prior to their April meeting. If you have an opinion on the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities of downtown La Porte City, now is the time to share them.