Greene County’s inspired modern makeover: 10 years, $46 million
By DOUGLAS BURNS
Leveraging the presence of Wild Rose Casino & Resort, strong manufacturing and agriculture, Greene County is well positioned to shatter the stereotype of a staggering rural reach and emerge as a forefront region of Iowa in the next decade with modernizing features ranging from an Iowa Central Community College career academy to a sports-and-aquatics complex in Jefferson to an artists’ colony in downtown Grand Junction.
And that’s just the opening act.
So says Zachary Mannheimer of McClure Engineering in Clive, the facilitator of Greene County’s Vision 2020, a planning process that involves public and private investment over years.
Vision 2020 this afternoon presented a sweeping plan designed for implementation over 10 years at a cost of $46 million — with healthy chunks coming from Grow Greene County Gaming Corp., the nonprofit associated with the casino, and through private fundraising, as well as from taxpayers, notably in the form of debt financing to be determined by school district voters.
State and federal monies could come into play, too.
It’s essential for rural communities to be aggressive, Mannheimer said.
“The ones that succeed are the ones that do things like this,” he said.
Here’s the package of proposals for Greene County:
• Modernizing the Greene County Community School District
• New aquatic center and sports complex in Jefferson
• Expansion of day care in Jefferson
• New restaurant in downtown Jefferson
• Housing development in Paton
• Housing plan for Jefferson
• Grand Junction artists’ colony
• New trails system
Added together, the projects total $46 million, with the largest being an expected $25 million for the Greene County schools, a plan that includes the introduction of a career academy building in Jefferson for Fort Dodge-based Iowa Central Community College and repurposing of any vacated school buildings into housing.
The new athletic and aquatics complex, which could be located west of Wild Rose, carries an estimated price tag of $12.4 million with $7.97 million expected to cover the remaining projects.
The Vision 2020 committee envisions a mix of public and private funding, including a $6.2 million private capital campaign.
“We think you have the capacity to raise that,” Mannheimer said.
Another element of Vision 2020 is the development of a brew pub/restaurant in Jefferson, a business-class restaurant that will feature a variety of Iowa-crafted beers on tap and in bottles and cans.
“It will be a heavy focus on Iowa beers,” Mannheimer said.
Vision 2020 steering committee members envision the launch of such a brew pub at 219 N. Wilson Ave., in a former U-Haul building that at one time served as City Hall.
Mannheimer said the Vision 2020 plan will include three trail loops for walking and bicycling in Jefferson — loops of 7 miles, 5 miles and 4.5 miles.
Some big vision: turning downtown Grand Junction into an artists’ colony with upper stories of buildings used for residences and the ground levels slated for commercial.
“Could you turn Grand Junction into an artist’s colony?” asked Mannheimer, who suggested there are few other options for the blighted commercial district of that eastern Greene County city.
“It needs a lot of work,” he said. “I don’t think that’s surprising to anyone who’s been there.”
Mannheimer projects a $1 million cost for the artists’ colony.
The plan suggests the reopening of a restaurant in Scranton with a strong tie to the New Way production facility.
One idea that emerged publicly for the first time today: the development of 3D-printed workforce housing in Paton.
The cutting-edge technology literally would involve the quick build of quality housing with modern robotics, a project that would put Paton on the map for innovation in a global sense, Mannheimer said.
Read more details on the Vision 2020 meeting and plan in next Thursday’s Jefferson Herald.