Main Street making Centerville comeback

Jennifer Appler, Chariton Valley Regional Housing Trust Fund and Main Street program manager, stands just outside her second floor office in the Bradley Bank Building in Centerville Wednesday afternoon, April 4.

Photo by Michael Schaffer/Daily Iowegian
Daily Iowegian

An effort is underway to get Centerville back to where it was before ... a member of Iowa's "Main Street" community. Centerville was a Main Street community in the 1980s but those responsible allowed that membership to lapse in the early 1990s.

Now, Grow Centerville, a non-profit with Patti Lind, Bill Burch and Carl Cisler on the board of directors, will make a formal application this fall with the Iowa Department of Economic Development to restore Centerville's Main Street membership. Grow Centerville focuses on housing, housing improvements and business development with an emphasis on the Main Street program.

"We've known for two years that we've wanted to do this, but we just got Jennifer hired for it," Patti Lind said.

Jennifer is Jennifer Appler, Chariton Valley Regional Housing Trust Fund and Main Street program manager. Appler's main duties as program manager will be to explain the Main Street program, answer questions, coordinate, organize, administrative responsibilities and reporting to Grow Centerville Board of Directors.

"And our goal, working through Grow Centerville, is to make sure that this stays around forever," Appler said. "I guess I'm excited because there are so many possibilities through the state that we aren't able to take part in because we are not a Main Street community that can help keep our downtown vital and self-efficient and vibrant and I want to get us back into that program so where we can get all of these resources available to us."

The Main Street application process with IDED can take from one-to-two-years, Appler and Lind said Wednesday afternoon. The application process is competitive and acceptance into the program is not guaranteed.

Until the application is decided on and since the 1990s when Centerville's Main Street designation was allowed to lapse, this community has lost out on a large amount of grant dollars, Lind said.

"We've lost out on, literally, tens of thousands of dollars of monies that are made available only to the Main Street communities for downtown renovations," Lind said.

Appler said Centerville has missed out on more than $4.8 million in state grants because they are not a Main Street community.

Lind and Appler also talked about the 6 p.m. meeting May 22 at the Majestic Theater in Centerville where Main Street state representatives will give an overview of the program. The meeting is open to the public and Lind and Appler encouraged the public to attend.

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Appler said they are also working closely with the city of Centerville, the Chamber of Commerce and AEDC.

"We all have different areas that we concentrate on, but we all basically want the same thing," Appler said, "and that's to keep Centerville as viable as it possibly can be, sustainable at it possibly can be."

Main Street is an economic development program that recognizes downtown districts as the "heart and soul" of a community within the context of historic preservation. Main Street's goal is to "improve the social and economic well being of Iowa's communities."

Part of the Main Street application is to designate where the community's central business district is.

Lind said Centerville's central business district would encompass the historic downtown district, which includes the Drake Public Library, old post office, Pill Row and contiguous areas.

"It means reestablishing our downtown district as a place to come. As a heartbeat of our community," Lind said. "And then who knows, maybe we can expand it to include the Levee. There's a world of opportunity here."

Main Street communities receive design expertise from the state at no cost and are eligible to apply for grants non-Main Street communities cannot apply for, Lind said.

If Centerville is accepted into Main Street, it could mean $500,000 in grant money the first two years for building revitalization in the designated area, Lind said.

Main Street was created in 1985. Currently, 48 Iowa communities and more than 2,000 across the United States belong to Main Street.

"I'm just extremely excited about it to get it going again," Appler said. "I look at what we have to offer with Honey Creek and all of the people that come down to stay there. And I think Main Street will only benefit Centerville into keeping those people to ... spend time and money here as well."

"And we want Centerville to get back into that," Lind said.

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