COUNCIL BLUFFS — Main Street Council Bluffs has a director, and the group is off and running. And while members look to apply to join the Main Street Iowa Program toward the end of the year, right now they are trying to get their proverbial ducks in a row.
Joshua Barbee, who started in December, is the organization’s first executive director. On Tuesday, he joined the organization’s president, Arlo Burk, at the Pottawattamie County Board meeting to request county support for the endeavor.
Main Street Council Bluffs is a private-public partnership dedicated to creating a unique, vibrant and well-connected village within the community of Council Bluffs.
Burk said the goal is to develop the “core” downtown area, from approximately the Mormon Tabernacle west through the 100 block of West Broadway and south through the Haymarket Historic District to the RailsWest Museum.
So far, the organization has found an office in the downtown Park Building and received a $300,000 grant from the Iowa West Foundation to help it get started. The award will provide $100,000 a year for three years.
Burk said the group is looking at a three-year budget of $927,480. He asked the board to commit to $25,000 per year over three years.
County Board Chairman Scott Belt said that he liked the idea of the organization but that there will be a lot to overcome.
“There are a lot of challenges with the historic downtown,” Belt said. For one, he said, Interstate exits send tourists to many areas in the city, but not downtown.
Board member Loren Knauss said he liked the Main Street approach of starting to work in one area and then branching out.
“We have talked about this project a number of times, and it just makes sense,” he said. “This kind of approach should have been done 100 years ago.”
No money was officially committed to Main Street Council Bluffs on Tuesday. Board members will discuss the idea when they work on the fiscal year 2014 budget later this month.