New push to clean up city has to include downtown

CHUCK VANDENBERG

Not being able to go down Eighth Street is a bigger pain than I thought it would be.

I didn’t realize how many times I turned up or down that street chasing stories.

But that’s the byproduct of a different problem. The building at 8th and G is an eyesore in town and having it completely surrounded by red and white city barricades is even worse.

Avenue G is now barricaded in front of the building because City Building Director Doug Krogmeier said if something were to happen to the interior of the structure while a “shoring” wall is being built, it could cause an unsafe change in air pressure and blow out the windows.

Good grief.

The building is owned by Bryan Humphrey, who also has property that is barricaded off in the alley between avenues G and F west of 9th Street. A wall literally fell out of a garage and that, too, is now barricaded.

The city is currently in the process of abating about 80 nuisance vehicles on private and/or public property because City Code section 6-4-1 allows them to do so.

I took a drive with mayor-elect Matt Mohrfeld this fall and looked at dilapidated property, unkempt property, and nuisance property. Mohrfeld was adamant that a lot of the properties can be renovated with the right program and assistance, but said the city had to start taking steps to clean up its image.

We agree.

But that can’t just be neighborhoods. We have to include livelihoods and that means the downtown. We’ve reached out to Bryan Humphrey on several occasions to talk about what he’s doing with his property simply because the city feels they’re dangerous enough to keep barricaded. Those calls haven’t been returned.

We all have rights when it comes to our property, but we have responsibilities, too. That’s a big building and would be a handful to maintain, but somehow or someway it needs to be done for everyone downtown.

Building Director Doug Krogmeier and the city are keeping close tabs on the work, but haven’t inspected anything on the inside since the building began to crumble in November. But a private engineer has been hired by the owner to help get the building secured. Let’s hope that happens so we can open up the sidewalks and the streets.

On the brighter side, I saw a gentleman outside sweeping the sidewalk in front of the Victorian Art gallery downtown and was reaffirmed that people are aware that a cleaner image is good for business.

Whether that’s a neighborhood or the image we offer when looking back from the park, or possibly in the near future, an Amtrak Depot or additional cruise ships.

I’ve spoken to people who’ve come off the ships who say what a beautiful, historic view Fort Madison has from the riverfront. One lady told me it made her want to live here. But I can’t help but wonder if she felt the same way when she got back on the boat.

I take Mayor-elect Mohrfeld at his word that he wants to lead Fort Madison to a more tidy city and cleaner image. Pulling cars off properties is a solid first step, especially if city departments are all in.

But we can’t forget about the people trying to make a living downtown. And there are people working hard down there to market those businesses that would benefit from beautification efforts there as well.

We’re certainly not exposed to all the internal conversations that take place between business owners, advocates, and city officials. We just hope the downtown is part of the plan, too.

And if you haven’t had the chance, stop down for a cookie on Saturdays between 2 and 4 p.m. at the Enchanted Forest. There are some awesome trees and displays down there. And that bearded elf in a red suit makes an appearance for Christmas wishes and candy canes – but that’s Beside the Point.

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