Part one of a two-part series City reports on comprehensive plan progress
By Molly Moser
In December 2013, after a year of collecting input from the community and extensive research, the city council approved a new comprehensive plan to guide the next 20-30 years of progress in Guttenberg. In a two-part story to be published Jan. 4 and 11, The Press checks in with Mayor Russ Loven and Guttenberg Chamber of Commerce Director Emily Sadewasser about the third year of progress on the plan, and what’s to come in 2017.
“Guttenberg’s history makes us unique and gives our city character. It is very vibrant and alive, such as eight trains a day moving commodities and goods throughout the country and world. A constant flow of trucks, and during the summer months, a constant flow of barge traffic, do the same,” said Mayor Loven. “Also, during the summer we have a daily flow of fishermen pulling their boats to the river, and on summer weekends hundreds more people pulling their pleasure boats to the marina for family fun. We are blessed with natural beauty, clean air and some of the best water in the world. This presents challenges such as traffic hazards and congestion.”
Those opportunities, challenges and more are addressed by the following nine categories of the comprehensive plan.
Community Culture: Goals for enriching Guttenberg’s community culture included the preservation and enhancement of the history and architecture of Guttenberg, drawing tourists to support the local economy by making the city a destination, providing ample opportunities for residents to participate in the arts, and offering year-round recreational activities for residents and visitors.
“The community art culture is being nurtured by the Guttenberg Gallery and Creativity Center and Umbrella Arts. These two groups work well together in establishing an environment for enriching the lives of Guttenberg and surrounding citizens,” said the Mayor, specifically noting concerts and community art contests.
Chamber Director Emily Sadewasser spent time over the past several months working with Umbrella Arts and Northeast Iowa RC&D to improve public spaces with artworks that reflect the character of the community. “We are planning to meet with the project committee and RC&D project leaders in January to discuss moving forward and to discuss the process of selecting artists,” she told The Press.
“Another top priority of the city is a study of the needs of a new city swimming pool. A very energetic volunteer committee under direction of the city is exploring all options, working with Burbach Aquatics of Platteville,” said the Mayor. “It is expected that a community referendum will be held in 2017 to determine its future.”
The city is also working with Clayton County on trail development along the Great River Road. A grant would have funded the project to coincide with the Great River Road trail and paving project, scheduled for 2017. “We scored very high but didn’t get the grant,” said the Mayor. “The city will probably work with the Clayton County Conservation Board and Island Association on exploring other avenues of funding for the trail project.”
Housing: Priorities for housing in Guttenberg include keeping existing housing well maintained and attractive, providing adequate space and infrastructure for residential development, and ensuring affordable housing is available for all.
A housing needs assessment study was recently completed for Clayton County, including Guttenberg. As reported in the Dec. 21 issue of The Press, there is a need for lower-priced housing in Guttenberg. “There are many people who work in the city of Guttenberg who live outside the city. They wouldn’t all move to town, but many would if housing was available. This could mean the rehabbing of existing homes and building new ones. Part of that problem is the need for land, which will primarily come about through annexation of property outside of the city,” said Loven. “We have also identified several nuisance properties which need attention, and we are very slowly working on those situations.”
Economic Development: The goals for economic development in Guttenberg include supporting a sufficient workforce by maintaining a high quality of life, facilitating thriving service and manufacturing industries as well as commercial areas downtown and along Highway 52 that provide for residents’ needs, welcoming and cultivating entrepreneurs, and promoting tourism as a main economic driver.
“The Chamber has been working on recommendations from last year's downtown assessment. In 2017, we are looking to have architectural awareness contests and are looking to work with owners of vacant downtown buildings to keep buildings clean and windows filled with attractive displays. We would also like to form a group to identify red flags to help beautify the town,” said Sadewasser.
The Chamber is trying to build support for the Main Street program, which could alleviate many of the issues noted in the downtown assessment. “The city has initiated the exploration of the Main Street program as a vehicle for business development in Guttenberg, and as one way of preventing retail drainage out of Guttenberg. We have had an assessment of the River Park Drive business community and have conducted one community meeting for its exploration. The city supports Main Street as one way of restoring more retail in Guttenberg, but has now given the primary responsibility to determine the viability of Main Street to the Guttenberg Chamber of Commerce,” said Loven.
Working with GEIDC, the City of Guttenberg is exploring Industrial Park expansion and is studying Highway 52 business develop- ment. In 2017, the Chamber will complete a business recruitment piece that the Chamber, City, and GEIDC can use in business development efforts.
The Chamber created a survey to determine what skills are present in Guttenberg’s workforce and what skills/traits employers are looking for. GEIDC administered this survey to a dozen businesses of different types, from retail to healthcare to service to manufacturing.
“This year, we have worked to develop several outdoor seating areas in the downtown business district, and have two bike racks for the business district. We have also installed signage at the intersection of Schiller Street and Highway 52 to direct travelers to our downtown,” said Sadewasser.
To find out about 2016 progress and 2017 plans for transportation, facilities and services, public infrastructure and utilities, natural and agricultural resources, hazards, and land use, see next week’s issue.