One year after streetscape completion, Main Street Ottumwa focuses on recruiting businesses

Main Street Ottumwa's Executive Director says the new streetscape has "absolutely" helped. But...
Main Street Ottumwa's Executive Director says the new streetscape has "absolutely" helped. But there's still more work to be done - namely filling in vacant buildings with businesses.(KYOU)
Published: Nov. 11, 2021 at 5:16 PM CST
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OTTUMWA, Iowa (KYOU) - One year with a drastically changed East Main Street. Since the completion of Main Street Ottumwa’s streetscape project, the organization’s Executive Director, who oversaw the two-year construction process, is happy to see the improvements. “It’s a much more enjoyable place to walk and visit and shop as well,” Fred Zesiger says. Comfort was a big component in the streetscape project, with expanded sidewalks and lighting.

The project was completed last year just in time for the 4th quarter, which Zesiger notes is Main Street’s busiest time. He says the completed streetscape “absolutely” helped attract customers last year.

In the year since, Main Street Ottumwa has put more work into downtown, with art installations along the sidewalk, a focus on upper level housing, and filling in vacancies. “Along the main street corridor, I think our big focus right now is getting businesses in,” explains Zesiger. There are still multiple vacant buildings downtown, and Zesiger wants to fill them, either with by incubating local businesses or bringing in outside businesses.

And with several recent property sales, Zesiger says Main Street Ottumwa is “on the verge of another step.”

The owner of The Sewing House, a business along Main Street, says he wasn’t much affected by last year’s construction, thanks to a parking lot in the back. But looking out front, he says he loves Main Street’s new look. “It’s beautiful now. And it desperately needed to be fixed.” He notes the synergy between Main Street businesses. When his customers are in town, “they’re gonna stop over at Top Hat Coffee, or they’re gonna stop a restaurant. or they’re gonna stop at other businesses...the more stores that open down here, the better.”

Zesiger says he’d like one day to carry over Main Street’s look to all of downtown, as it improves the business climate. “The design of the street. The vibrancy of the plants... people that haven’t been to Ottumwa in a while [are] saying what a huge impact that has made in changing their perspective of what downtown is.”

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