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Top priority for improving downtown Decorah? Improving the Mechanic Street/Water Street intersection

Posted: Thu, Oct 1, 2020 2:01 PM

Five representatives from the Iowa Economic Development Authority's Downtown Resource Center have finished the first phase of their study of Decorah's downtown.  They presented their initial conclusions and suggestions at a 75-minute presentation Thursday at City Hall.  A complete report will be sent to Decorah officials in four to six weeks.

The Thursday afternoon presentation touched on dozens of issues, including greenspace, business hours, street lights, banners, and sidewalk planters.  When asked what project the community should work on first, one of the five visitors, Reynolds Urban Design president Dennis Reynolds, replied the Water Street/Mechanic Street intersection is "unimpressive" and steps can be taken to better connect the Vesterheim campus with the rest of downtown.  Reynolds also said the north parking lot "looks like a 40-year-old K-Mart lot" and a little bit of updates could make the area look much more inviting.

Also at the top of the group's suggestions—better signage to direct motorists on Highways 9 & 52 to the downtown area.  "You have a beautiful downtown," said IEDA business specialist Robin Bostrom, but motorists need to be told how to get to the downtown area and where to park and what to do once they get there.

The five visitors agreed that Decorah has a lot going for it and that downtown has "not a lot" of vacant storefronts, according to Bostrom.  She told Thursday's City Hall audience that the results of their survey closely paralleled the results of the branding study done two years ago by the Decorah Area Chamber of Commerce and Winneshiek County Development and Tourism.