An exhaustive look at what can be done to boost Carroll’s Highway 30 corridor includes suggestions to site a walking/biking trail running from roughly Farner-Bocken in eastern Carroll to Walmart on its western edges as well the potential razing of the former JCPenney location to clear space for a visionary three-story, 41-unit apartment complex with retail on the ground level.
These are just a few of the ideas emerging from the City of Carroll and Carroll Area Development Corporation’s commercial and retail revitalization efforts. RDG Planning & Design, a well-known Midwestern firm that has worked in Carroll before, will present initial results of its survey and other work in Carroll at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 24 in an online forum open the public. The event can be accessed via Zoom (visit www.carrollforward.com for a Zoom link), the City of Carroll’s YouTube Channel or on local access cable at channel 6 for Mediacom and Western Iowa Networks customers.
“The meeting is a time to share some of those preliminary ideas,” said Charlie Cowell, RDG’s project manager for the Carroll.
Elements of the plan also include adding buildings in the commercial area on the southwest side of the Grant Road/U.S. 30 intersection and creating a stronger business hub in the Quint Avenue area to the north of Hy-Vee.
Some decisions involve public property, but Cowell stressed that most of the suggestions would be up to private landowners and businesspeople.
That said, tax increment financing and other government incentives could be employed to encourage development of under-used or vacated areas of the business district, City Manager Mike Pogge-Weaver said.
“This is not public acquisition or eminent domain,” Cowell added.
Some corridor steering committee members walked U.S. 30 through Carroll and realized that many people, even on snowy and cold-weather days, were walking to shop or work. Bicycles are used in warmer weather as well on the corridor.
“There are people who rely on that,” Pogge-Weaver said.
The trail plan, which would generally keep to Highway 30 but use frontage or nearby roads to get around certain obstacles, also would connect to the Sauk Trail to boost consumer traffic in Carroll.
The corridor working group is considering potential entry features on the western and eastern sides of Carroll along Highway 30. This could involve ornamental lighting or landscaping or other elements.
Then there is the future of the JCPenney building, in many ways the catalyst for the retail project as the retailer’s departure as a downtown anchor has sowed anxiety in the business community and city at large.
There are options to recruit a new single tenant to the existing space, split the property or demolish and build a multi-level building.
Big picture, the city and CADC are in the recruitment business in a way they never have been.
They’ll provide information and support to local entrepreneurs, which is where they hope growth will emerge, but local leaders have made it clear they aggressively will pursue national and regional chains, especially in the restaurant and clothing sectors, weak points in Carroll’s economy, according to Iowa State University data and early analysis from the new local project.
Carroll City Council members recently signed off on a $210,000 plan to study improvements to the public spaces in the business district, scout and recruit new business with some of the funding dedicated to staff and consultants who will zero in on bringing new businesses to Carroll or helping existing ones expand.
“This is not a study,” CADC Executive Director Shannon Landauer said. “We are not hiring a planner. We are hiring a doer.”
Under the plan, which earned a 6-0 council vote, the city has contracted with RDG on the corridor element, an expected expense of $60,000, and will fund the Carroll Area Development Corporation with $150,000 for its efforts with The Retail Coach, an Austin, Texas-based company. The plan is expected to run three years and be funded through the city’s local option sales tax revenue.
Steering Committee members for the RDG-driven portion are: Eric Jensen, mayor; Josh Axman, Mid-Iowa Insurance & Real Estate; Nick Badding, Badding Construction; Laura Comito, Artworks Studio; LaVern Dirxk, council member; Matt Greteman, Greteman & Associates; Ryan Milligan, Commercial Savings Bank; Thomas Parrish, Carroll Eye Care Associates; Sondra Rierson, Adaptive Audiology Solutions; Denae Rosdail, I Saw The Sign; Austin Scott, Fusebox Marketing; Carolyn Sieman, council member; and Ed Smith, St. Anthony Regional Hospital.
Non-voting members of the committee are Pogge-Weaver, Landauer, City Public Works Director Randy Krauel and City Finance Director Laura Schaefer.