Downtown Development and Diversity

June 29, 2021
Downtown Development and Diversity

Iowa continues to move through the COVID-19 pandemic recovery and re-opening phase, and some promising trends across the state are being seen. While economic downturns like the one experienced with the pandemic can have a negative impact on downtown commercial districts, they often result in a time when new businesses emerge and serve the market in new and different ways.

As Iowa’s population continues to become more diverse, we are beginning to see a new group of entrepreneurs and development leaders step up across our state. This past year has also made us more aware of our fellow Iowans of all colors and ethnic backgrounds, and how they contribute to our small business community. Pandemics and natural disasters like tornados and derechos present difficult challenges when you are a small business owner, sometimes making you want to simply give up. But Iowans know how to work hard to overcome those challenges, many times coming out better than before.

This is certainly the case in Marshalltown, where many businesses were first affected by a devastating tornado in 2018. Abarrotes Villachuato, a Hispanic grocery store located downtown was destroyed. As the community was working to rebuild from that natural disaster, the pandemic hit, followed closely by the derecho in August of 2020. Certainly, enough to make you want to throw in the towel and call it quits. But not for the owners of the Hispanic grocery store in the downtown district. They knew how important this business was to the community and especially the Hispanic community, which makes up about 30% of Marshalltown’s population base. The five brothers in the Regalado family worked closely with the City of Marshalltown, the local Main Street organization and numerous other partners to learn what assistance was available. They were able to acquire a new property and began work in 2020 on a new 17,350 square foot grocery store. This $3.5 million project, Supermarket Villachauto, opened on November 19, 2020, broadening the food options available in Marshalltown – a definite bright spot despite all the community has been through.

Another vastly diverse neighborhood, the 6th Avenue Corridor in Des Moines has seen increased business development activity from residents who live and work in the neighborhood. These young entrepreneurs have a vested interest in their community and are stepping up to open businesses that serve their friends and neighbors. Ziyard Rye is the first-in-the-nation, fully black-owned and operated distillery that focuses on the creation of high-quality spirits, including whiskey, bourbon and rum. Their products are featured in over 130 Hy-Vee and Fareway stores across Iowa and are available to ship nationally. 

Good Vibes Yoga offers yoga and wellness classes that bring lots of foot traffic to the district, which benefits other local businesses. The owner is involved in youth development in the neighborhood to help develop future leaders. Another great example of businesses that truly give back to their neighborhood, helping to create a vibrant and unique business environment.

The 6th Avenue Corridor recently released a Request for Qualifications for property development within their neighborhood commercial district and received two great proposals. The group really wanted to set the tone for future development with the neighborhood, making sure it served the residents and improved the area in a positive way. They will partner local business owners with experienced development professionals who will mentor and guide them through a successful development project, build capacity and create a new generation of stakeholders for the future.

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