Iowa Farmland Is Site of Successful Urban Renewal by Beverly Paulson Carroll, Iowa, in the heart of some of the richest farmland in the Nation, boasts of itself as "Iowa's Newest City." It proudly proclaims that, with a population of less than 10,000, it is the smallest city in the country to undertake a massive Urban Renewal program that totally renovated the business district. "Overall, this is one of the best Urban Renewal projects I have seen," says Elmer E. Smith, Regional Administrator for Region VII. "The city not only completed a successful program-it completed the project on time and within the monies allocated to it. And I would be hard pressed to find another HUD project that so totally involved the community." Located in west central Iowa, Carroll is 100 miles from each of three population centers, Omaha, Des Moines, and Sioux City. Because of its distance from a major city, it has a large trade area that extends in a 50-mile radius. Before Urban Renewal began in 1968, few of the downtown businesses, which had 20 to 25-foot fronts, were suited for today's retailing ownership. Many of the buildings had been built at the turn of the HUD CHALLENGE / February 1976 century and their ownership often had passed to the original owner's descendants, who had left the city and were not interested in improving or rehabilitating the buildings. Carroll officials frankly admit that the city's business district was an eyesore. But since 1968, financed with city, Federal and private monies, the entire 15-block downtown area has been redeveloped into a modern shopping-civic center described by one HUD official as "beautiful—and very sophisticated for a city of its size." The net cost of the Urban Renewal was $3.4 million, including $800,000 as the city's share and $2.6 million in grants from HUD. An additional $4.4 million was spent on private downtown construction. In the project area itself, a total of 48 buildings were purchased and razed by the city with HUD funds to make way for new construction, and 22 other structures were rehabilitated. • Also included was a beautification program that involved a one-block- long semi-mall with a continuous 10-foot canopy across store fronts; a comprehensive lighting plan for the business district; street and sidewalk replacement and repair; and a one- block plaza with water fountain, benches, and landscaping. The plaza is between Carroll County Court House, built in 1965, and the new Carroll Community Center, which houses the city administrative offices, police and fire departments, and public library. Dedication of the newly-completed Community Center was part of a 3-day celebration last June that officially marked the close of Carroll's Urban Renewal. Privately financed busLi^ss construction spurred by Urban Renewal helped spell success for downtown Carroll, which underwent a 63 percent increase in retail sales between 1968 and 1974. Major new businesses include: • Westgate Mall, a fully enclosed, climate controlled shopping mall with 10 retail stores, opened in downtown Carroll in 1970; • two major department stores, serving as "anchor" stores for the project area; and • a new twin theatre complex in the project area, making Carroll the first city of its size in the Midwest offering Cinerama. |»ij|§i?' 1. Adams Street mall features i?>;;JS; ' 10-ft. canopy supported by i^lV-"- brick pillars. 2. Carroll Community Center was dedicated last Juno during celebration marking the closing of the urban renewal project. 3. Business district was dismal before renewal. 4. Replacing facility built in * 1905, St. Anthony Hospital I was largest single project in Carroll's $20 million boom. 5. Private investments of S4.4 »J3 million supported new con~ struction in downtown Carroll. Owners of small businesses also participated in the total downtown renovation and found remarkable success in obtaining loans from the Small Business Administration. The national "average is 40 percent approval of SBA applications; in Carroll, 57 applications were made to the SBA and 56 were approved. The economic success of Carroll's Urban Renewal can be proved partly by business ledgers. Success in human terms is hard to measure, but many residents, including Mayor William S. Farner, believe the project's benefits' to the people of Carroll are most important. "Today we are seeing more and more of our young people staying in Carroll or returning after they complete their education," Mayor Farner says. "And in some cases, people who left home earlier are returning because of the progress Carroll is exhibiting. While many, many cities pur The article on this page concerning Carroll's central business district urban renewal project appeared in the February issue of Challenge, a publication of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. size in Iowa and across the Nation are losing population. Carroll continues to show a steady population increase." Citizens Proud of Progress Carroll citizens, who had always exhibited neighborhood pride in Ilieir well-maintained residences, show increased confidence in their community. Before Urban Renewal, the downtown tax base was declining, giving residential homeowners an increasingly disproportionate share of the city's tax burden. The project reversed the (tend. What's more, evidence of new downtown vitality encouraged voters to approve additional expenditures by the schools and the municipality: • In 1968. with Urban Renewal barely underway, Carroll voters approved construction of a new $450.000 elementary school for kindergarten through third grade. In October 1974, the voters approved a $1.26 million addition to that school, making it a complete educational center housing kindergarten through sixth grade plus special education classes. The new facility is nearing completion. • In 1969, voters approved a $220,000 bond issue to purchase the former Chicago Great Western Railroad property bordering the south side of the business district. This land, with other city acquisitions, ultimately provided 1,514 off-street parking spaces in the downtown area. In 1971, residents again went to the polls and this time approved a $600,000 bond issue to finance construction of the new Community Center. Following approval of the bond issue, HUD gave, the city $500,000 for the purchase and clearance of buildings in the one-block- square site of the new center. Meanwhile, city officials moved ahead with oilier community improvements. In 1968 Carroll opened a new nine-hole municipal golf course. Since then, the City Council has purchased additional land adjacent to the course and presently is studying the possibility of expanding the course to HUD CHALLENGE / February 1976 18 holes. The city also has improved and expanded its Municipal Airport, adding a new lighting system, enlarging turnaround areas, aircraft parking areas and ramps, and extending the hard-surfaced runway from 2,800 to 4.000 feet. Municipal and downtown business expenditures were but part of Carroll's $20 million construction boom. In quick succession, local, Federal, and regional institutions completed building programs: . • In August 1969. Holy Spirit Parish dedicated a new $1 million church and rectory to replace two separate churches which previously had served Catholics living on the .south side of Carroll. • In June 1970. a $400.000 sectional center post office was completed. • In August 1971. St. Anthony Regional Hospital moved into a new $7 million, four-story. 130-bed facility that replaced the old hospital built in 1905. St. Anthony, one of only 16 fully equipped hospitals in Iowa designated as "regional" hospitals, helps give Carroll another distinction among rural American communities: eighteen doctors and seven dentists practice in the little city. Expansion Seen And as the reputation of "Iowa's Newest City" spread, newcomers to the community contributed to its growth, building homes in a town whose employment picture was brightened by two new industries. An average of more than 50 new homes were built each year in Carroll during the past several years. During the past year, as much of the rest of the Nation suffered a decline in construction, home building in Carroll turned toward tmillifamily housing and again approximately 50 units, including multiple and single dwellings, were built. Many of the new residents and young people returning home were attracted by Carroll's employment opportunities. In the past 3 years, General Electric and Farmland Foods, u division of Farmland Industries, opened plants in the city, giving an industrial base to the community's thriving retail and agricultural economy. Jointly, the two industries created a peak of approximately 500 new jobs. The City of Carroll is completing a special census to determine just how much its population has grown since 1970, when the national census showed a population of 8,716. Present estimates of city growth are broad, ranging from 100 to 200 persons a year over the past 5 years. Mayor Farner is not worried about a new set of problems resulting from the city's recent growth. "As long as Carroll grows—steadily—as it has-our growth is real healthy," he says. He is, in fact, totally optimistic about his city's future. As a HUD entitlement city, Carroll this year received approval of a $328,000 Community Development Block Grant. Over 5 years, the city's Block Grants will total $1.3 million. City officials hope to use the Block Grant funds, together with $880,000 in local money, to build a new recreation center that will house an indoor swimming pool; courts that can be used for basketball, volleyball, or tennis; handball courts; an exercise room; locker facilities; a senior citizens' area; and an auditorium. And after that? "We could do with a little more industry as we go along. And at some time we will need a new high school," the mayor states. "But right now I can say that there is nothing more that Carroll needs." <v«© Ms. Paulson lias held positions as a reporter, editor, and professor and was on the staff of HUD's Kansas , City Regional Office when she wrote this article.
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