BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Fort Madison has once again dropped its Main Street Iowa designation.
According to Tim Gobble, executive director of Fort Madison Partners, the Main Street board decided in December that Riverfront Business District, doing business as Fort Madison Main Street, would be dropping the d.b.a. and reverting back to the Riverfront Business District.
Denicia Wright, who took over as director of the Main Street program in July, resigned from the position in December when the group made the decision.
Gobble said it was important for the district and the community as a whole to know that efforts focusing on downtown Fort Madison will continue seamlessly and successful projects that the Main Street board was involved in will continue as well.
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“It’s unfortunate that we are leaving the connection with Main Street Iowa, but then again, the entity is not dead. We are going to be moving forward, we’re still going to be looking at doing projects and looking at beautification, revitalization, recruitment, and all that kind of stuff. We just won’t have that Main Street Iowa attachment,” Gobble said.
Stephanie Knoch, who served as president of Main Street before dropping the designation, said the reality was that the Fort Madison Main Street program wasn’t living up to the budget requirements that are in place under Main Street guidelines. She said Main Street officials came down in November and talked with the board about its progress.
“They said, ‘Hey, to survive, this is what you have to do and is your board willing to step up to the line. Our board wasn’t ready to put that effort into Main Street guidelines with the little benefit we were getting from Main Street,” Knoch said.
Gobble said Fort Madison has not received any grants, they were awarded grants but the money never came down. He said $4.8 million in local investment has been made in downtown businesses and none of that was tied to Main Street funding. He said there are two grants available to Main Street Iowa communities and the downtown properties never received any grant money.
He said Community Development Block Grants, upper story redevelopment, and other incentives are still on the table for current and prospective business owners in downtown.
Knoch said Main Street was willing to work with the board, but the board had to be willing on our end to do that as well, and the board decided to move in a different direction.
“We have business owners on the board, they didn’t have time to put that commitment in. It was going to require a few extra meetings and they didn’t want to not show up and be a part of that, so we went in this direction,” she said.
The board will still have the same set up, but there just wont be a single coordinator at this point. Gobble said it’s not out of the question that a director will be looked at. Day-to-day assistance will come from Partners staff.
Funding for the business district will come from the same sources.
“Even though the name is changing, the structure and the idea behind that name is not,” Gobble said.
Knoch said a meeting is being planned in the very near future among the business community to come together and help determine what the district will look like and what the goals will be.
She said information on that meeting will be coming very soon.
Fort Madison was reinstated as a Main Street Iowa community in the summer of 2009.