Right to left: Brian Irlbeck, Ember Muhlbauer and Kevin Boyle vote on priorities for the Main Street Manning board.
Right to left: Brian Irlbeck, Ember Muhlbauer and Kevin Boyle vote on priorities for the Main Street Manning board.
March 13, 2014


"There are no wrong answers and no crazy ideas," Main Street Manning board president Ron Reischl told the roughly 50 attendees at Tuesday night's community input event in the VFW Hall in Manning.

The main question posed at the event: What changes would provide a higher quality of life in Manning and bring more people back to town?

In small groups, residents and local business leaders brainstormed ideas using colored markers and Post-it Notes. Throughout the evening, those ideas were taped onto the wall. At the end of the night, attendees took their markers to the wall to vote on top priorities with tally and check marks.

Attendees also brainstormed ideas on what could be done to fill the city's empty or soon-to-be empty buildings - the medical clinic, hospital, variety store, spaces in the German Village Mall, the Gaffney law office and the former Main Street Manning storefront.

The Main Street organization held a similar event two years ago at the German Hausbarn. Suggestions from that event included fixing the bricks on Main Street, getting a historical designation for Manning, revitalizing the downtown and expanding the trail system, all projects that have been completed or are currently under way, said Dawn Rohe, city administrator.

Manning has also received new downtown banners, started a farmers market, and recently made progress to bring an assisted-living facility to Manning since the last community input meeting, Rohe added.

Upcoming projects include creating a wall for senior students on the back of the park restrooms. The wall will face Highway 141 and will be whitewashed each year for the next graduating class to paint. Work on new "Welcome to Manning" signs is also under way, said Resichl.

Additionally, planning has started for a June 2015 town celebration in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Main Street bricks. The event is being coordinated to coincide with the all-alumni school reunion and Kinderfest to pull as many Manning alums back into town as possible, he said.

According to the vote tally, the top priorities residents and business leaders set for the Main Street Manning organization include recruiting additional retail shops, adding hotel rooms, and supporting and recruiting local businesses.

Other ideas included recruiting a dentist and orthodontist to town, building an outdoor water park, airport facilities, bringing a grain facility co-op back to town, cleaning up abandoned or rundown properties, holding a summer concert series, recruiting restaurants such as a Mexican eatery or German bakery, organizing and offering farm tours, recruiting computer and bike repair shops, opening a dance studio, increasing the art in town, expanding recreational activities for youths and families, recruiting massage and chiropractic services, having a downtown social hour for local businesses, expanding the farmers market, establishing a business incubator and creating a shop-in-Manning rewards card.

Reischl and hospital administrator John O'Brien announced that the 11,000-square-foot clinic, appraised at $530,000, has already been placed on the market for $475,000. The current occupants will be moving to the new Manning Regional Healthcare Center sometime in early May.

The clinic is a particularly difficult building to repurpose, Reischl explained, because it is full of small rooms with relatively little access to outer walls and windows. However, the center of the building contains no load-bearing walls, and could be opened up, he added.

Ideas for this space, and the other vacant buildings in Manning, included creating a boutique mall or flea market, recruiting a call center, converting the buildings to hotel rooms or apartments and establishing a multi-medical building offering services not available through the health-care center.

The current Manning hospital is actually three sections - the original building from 1926, the 1969 expansion and the 2000 expansion. In an unofficial vote, residents evenly split on whether to repurpose the whole building for an estimated $1.5 million to $3 million, demolish the whole building, or demolish the 1969 and 2000 additions, keeping the original historic portion of the building intact. None of the options would affect the Manning Plaza long-term-care facility that is expected to remain on Main Street.

Reischl said the ideas presented at the meeting weren't new, but the process greatly helps the organization focus its efforts.

Main Street Manning is concurrently conducting a marketing and retail analysis with a Main Street Iowa staffer and a consultant from Nashville, Tenn. Surveys were sent out last summer, and analysis of the responses began a few weeks ago.

So far, the preliminary results of the study complement the main themes addressed during the community input meeting, Reischl said.