First look at Vision 2020 plan

Improved Greene County School District facilities, a business-class restaurant/brew pub with music and entertainment, a youth sports complex that includes a water park, and childcare and after school programs are at the top of an action plan developed for the Vision 2020 project.

Zack Mannheimer of the Community 360 group, the consortium working on the $98,000 Vision 2020 plan, presented preliminary study results at the Greene County Development Corporation annual meeting Sept. 20.

Also part of the action plan are housing, regional communities, “complete” streets, and trail connectivity. “Specific engineering, funding, and marketing efforts will be essential in moving these projects forward,” the report notes.

Community 360 has not yet developed a strategy for school facility improvement. Page 5 of a 29-page report is titled but has no copy yet. Also blank is a page titled “Daycare and After School Programs.”

Restaurant/ brew pub – A recommendation to build a brew pub is more nearly complete. The plan suggests the vacant building at 219 N. Wilson as a location. It would offer an “upscale casual menu” along with craft brew and craft cocktail options. Entrees would be priced at about $15.

“Besides serving as community gathering space, the brew pub would serve as an anchor for further development/redevelopment,” the report states.

Action steps include finding a restauranteur to operating the restaurant, finding localized financial capital, and designing and building the space. A committee headed by Amanda Bills is charged with the first two tasks, and an architecture firm would do the third.

Sports complex/ aquatic center – Vision 2020 includes an ambitious proposal for a sports complex and aquatic center with a nearby beer garden. Families with children are the target users. The facility would be on the north side of Jefferson and would serve as an anchor for further development of the intersection of Highways 30 and 4.

It should include indoor and outdoor athletic facilities, an aquatic center that complements the pool at Cobblestone Inn, an indoor playground, a skate park, a playscape, and a beer garden. The recommendation is that the community partner with the Greene County Schools to develop indoor and outdoor athletic facilities and ensure they’re big enough to host tournaments.

The report goes on to suggest that the indoor facility should be large enough for three or four basketball courts that could double as tennis and volleyball courts. There should be roll-up turf for indoor soccer and football, and there should be two indoor batting cages.
Outdoors there should be four baseball fields, two softball fields, four soccer/football fields, and four practice fields. The aquatic center should include amenities ranging from a splashpad to a swim-up bar. An indoor playground would be next to the aquatic center.

The Vision 2020 plan notes that the sports complex would never be financially sustainable on its own, perhaps coming up $200,000 short in revenue compared to expenses. Annual sponsorships and “municipality contributions” would fill the gap.

Housing – The introduction to the plan notes that 87 percent of the current housing stock is single-unit structures, that more than 40 percent of the housing stock was built in 1939 or earlier, and that only 5 percent has been built since 2000.

The report notes a need for available rental units and homes for sale. There is a particular shortage for households earning less than $25,000 or more than $50,000.

The report suggests that addressing the quality of housing stock should be a priority. There are two areas in Jefferson with “serious housing deficiencies” and vacant lots, and the report suggests the sites are large enough and clustered enough “to launch a targeted program to remove deteriorated structures for redevelopment.”

The city of Jefferson should adopt a coordinated rehabilitation strategy and put capital into a fund to provide incentives to homeowners for home repair work.

Action steps call for establishing a nonprofit group with a board of directors to rehab properties. Ken Paxton, Sid Jones, Jamie Daubendiek, Amanda Bills, Norm Fandel, Chris Deal and Nick Sorensen are on the committee working on that portion of the plan.

Scranton, Grand Junction, Paton – The Vision 2020 plan suggests specific plans for Scranton, Grand Junction and Paton at this time. The city of Scranton should create incentives for new ownership of the Lincoln Highway Grille and Tavern.

The city of Grand Junction should work toward consolidating the downtown buildings for redevelopment. The city should acquire all available property on Main Street, create a plan to rezone and build out street infrastructure, and create marketing materials and an incentive structure.

“The opportunity to create a unique community is attractive here for many reasons, none more so than the majority of Main Street is a blank canvas,” the report states. “There are hundreds of creatives and entrepreneurs that would welcome the opportunity to live in a community for a lower cost than the Des Moines metro given the right circumstances. Grand Junction presents this opportunity.”

In Paton, Bauer Manufacturing and Community State Bank should create an incentive for a new 16-plex rental housing unit. The new construction would provide much-needed housing for employees of John Deere and Bauer Manufacturing.

Streets – The Vision 2020 plan introduces the concept of “complete streets,” which are roadways designed with the safety of all users – vehicles, walkers and bicyclists. The city of Jefferson should adopt a complete streets policy via ordinances.

Trails – Finally, the Raccoon River Valley Trail should be connected to Wild Rose Casino and smaller loops within and around Jefferson should be created. Also, the trail and the river should be promoted to establish Greene County as a health and well-being destination.

When the Vision 2020 plan is complete it will include pro formas and possible sources of funding for the various projects. The steering committee expects a final report Oct. 24.

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