'This is the North End': Plan Addresses Vacant, Worn-Down Buildings in Mason City" /> 'This is the North End': Plan Addresses Vacant, Worn-Down Buildings in Mason City"> <p style="margin:0in 0in 10pt">'This is the North End': Plan Addresses Vacant, Worn-Down Buildings in Mason City | KAALTV.com
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'This is the North End': Plan Addresses Vacant, Worn-Down Buildings in Mason City

April 09, 2018 11:00 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- A collaboration between Mason City and the University of Iowa aims to address the perception of the city's north side and breathe new life into an area currently filled with empty, dilapidated buildings.

A quick drive down North Federal Avenue shows many vacant structures and a neighborhood that's a shadow of its former self. Property owner Russell Hardy remembers the way the area looked when he moved in during the early 1970s.

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"When we first got here, the north end was a thriving area," Hardy recalled. "We had two cement plants, we had a sugar beet factory and we had a hog-slaughtering plant."

When the hog plant closed several years later, it took hundreds of jobs with it, Hardy said. That loss is still felt in the area today.

To combat the rise of empty storefronts, the city and several graduate students from the University of Iowa began working on a plan to rebrand the neighborhood and address some of its chief shortcomings, including a lack of quality housing, limited pedestrian and transit options and low community engagement.

"We'd certainly like to see active, exciting businesses, places people want to stop at, properties rehabbed, cleaned up," said Steven Van Steenhuyse, the city's director of development services.

Monday, neighbors weighed in on the proposal and shared their priorities with the plan's creators.

One big goal is to address the misconception the area is unsafe, Van Steenhuyse said.

"There's always been a perception this is a very high-crime area," he said. "In reality, it's not any worse, in fact, it's better than some other parts of the city."

Other aspects of the plan include updating the streetscape along North Federal Avenue and creating a community garden to increase healthy food options for neighbors.  A repaving project on North Federal, which is also U.S. Highway 65, is scheduled for this summer.

Hardy said he already has plans for his buildings and is ready to see the area reach its potential.

"We're going to create four new brand new 2-bedroom apartments [...] then we will create white boxes, which are essentially available for commercial space," he said.

The students will compile community feedback and issue their final report next month.

 

 

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Logan Reigstad

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