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Muscatine looks to revitalize area of downtown

Under current design plans, Muscatine would upgrade the facades of 11 storefront buildings located on the north side of the 200 block of East Second Street.

MUSCATINE, Iowa — Muscatine has its eyes on revitalizing its downtown.

The city council will vote Thursday night to approve plans for a million-dollar Downtown Revitalization Project. It specifically targets buildings on the north side of the 200 block of East 2nd Street. It's a façade program, meaning renovations will be focused on the exterior of the building.

Community Development Director Jodi Royal-Goodwin said they've been working on this idea for several years now. It received a $650,000 Community Development Block Grant from the Iowa Economic Development Authority.

Part of the statewide façade program requires defining a target area that is blighted with at least 25% of the buildings being in a fair or poor condition. Community development staff sent letters to each downtown property owner to evaluate their interest in the project.

Royal-Goodwin said they chose the north side of the 200 block of East 2nd Street based on the level of interest for that area and because it was a more concentrated area with more visual impact. Eleven storefront buildings were then selected for upgrades.

Upgrades will generally include selective demolition, door, window and wall repair and replacement, painting and masonry renovation.

Royal-Goodwin said it's to help keep buildings from deteriorating, with a goal to restore the historicalness of the buildings. 

David "Tiny" Botello is the owner of Tiny's Tunes Entertainment. His building is one of the 11 that are part of the project. While he doesn't know much about the project, he's excited about its possibilities. 

"It was a little bit behind," Botello said. "We travel to a lot of cities and we saw these little towns that the downtown is all modernized and everything, so Muscatine needs that... I'm hoping they leave us with a bunch of windows like we have now because ours is about display and everything."

The total project, including construction and design, is about $1.3 million, according to Royal-Goodwin. The majority of that is funded by the Community Development Block Grant. Another $250,000 is from Muscatine's Tax Increment Financing. In 2019, the city authorized $100,000 annually in tax increments to support a local façade program. Property owners will also pay 30% of the cost of renovations to their building.

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