MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa — A snowy downtown Marshalltown is a reminder of how much time has past from an EF-3 tornado in July but the memories refuse to fade. “It was so overwhelming when we came out. We were in a safe room in the library,” said Sarah Rosenblum, Director of the Marshalltown Public Library.
For seven months there have been constant reminders about the destruction. “We’ve got a lot of holes that are being created now as buildings have to come down and so what do you do with those spaces?” asked Michelle Spohnheimer, Marshalltown Housing and Community Development Director.
Wednesday, people in town met with city officials for the first step in creating new memories with a downtown master plan. “Excite property owners and business owners to take the next step.” One request is leading the charge early. “We would love to see people living downtown that could walk to the public library,” said Rosenblum. Al Hoop, a Marshalltown City Council Member agreed saying, “Downtown living up above the stores. We’ve done quite a bit but still a lot more that can be done.”
Ideas from the public and city included pocket parks and art installations, revitalized storefronts, new restaurants and outdoor stages. Rosenblum said, “A stronger downtown means a stronger community so it`s a win-win”
Even a blast from the town’s past had been suggested. “I’ve heard as much as the trolley that runs back and forth. There used to be one way back when from downtown to other areas. I don’t know if we’ll bring a trolley back but you never know,” Spohnheimer said with a laugh.
The local Chinese restaurant remains open downtown despite the scaffolding used to fix damage from the tornado. Organizers of the downtown master plan hope citizens dream big creating something stronger out of the destruction. “If we don’t dream about it we could get stuck and cannot go anywhere,” Spohnheimer said.
The community is invited to the next meeting Thursday February 21 and again on February 23. The complete master planning phase is expected to be finalized in May.