Main Street Ottumwa survey shows interest and investment in downtown

With the survey results, Main Street Ottumwa can now focus on improving downtown.

Over the summer, Main Street Ottumwa went door-to-door at 170 downtown businesses, looking to get their responses on a survey regarding downtown. The survey aimed to garner business owners' and residents' interest level in the downtown area and what they would like to see happen there in the future.

Main Street now has the results of that survey, after 101 of them were returned and over 300 more came in from residents and businesses that took it online. Bob Unteidt, Executive Director of Main Street Ottumwa, said the main results are threefold.

First, 70% of downtown businesses said they have interest in a collaborative marketing effort. A similar portion, 80%, of those businesses and residents said they would like to see more promotional and social activities going on downtown. Finally, those surveyed said they would like to see more restaurants downtown.

In addition, about 30% of the group surveyed expressed interest in living downtown.

Unteidt said if even only five percent of Ottumwa's population moved to downtown apartments or living spaces, that would bring 1,000 people to the area. Having all those people would in turn boost the social aspects of downtown Ottumwa that so many want to see.

"If we had 500 more people living downtown, that would certainly have an influence on what kind of social life that restaurants and other places would do," Unteidt said. "It would certainly help the business community overall, so we're part of a longer-term process of encouraging the development of more housing."

Many efforts to encourage these changes are already underway, from a variety of Ottumwa organizations. Unteidt said two new restaurants will soon be coming to downtown and Main Street has a $1.1 million initiative to improve the look and feel of downtown. Construction is progressing on the Market on Main project, which will soon be a staple of downtown and it was recently announced that a $500,000 grant will go towards the reconstruction of the entire 300 block of East Main Street.

The Ottumwa Economic Development Corporation is knee-deep in a project to bring better broadband and internet services to Ottumwa and Wapello County and even the discussion on turning one-way streets in downtown to two-ways can benefit business in the long-run.

As for the social aspect, Main Street Ottumwa is working on that too, with two events in October. The first-ever Puttin' Around Downtown event will be Thursday, October 10 from 11:30am-1:30 pm. Businesses will each set up a putt-putt hole at their building and prizes will be announced at the end of the afternoon at Market on Main. The event is $10 for a group of four and to register, contact the Ottumwa Chamber of Commerce at 641-814-5900.

Three days later, the annual Main Street Ottumwa History Walk will run from 2-5 pm on Sunday, October 13. This year's walk will focus on the history of the 300 Block of East Main. Tickets are $5 per person and reservations are required. You can purchase tickets at Hotel Ottumwa, Main Street Ottumwa or North Hy-Vee, and call Main Street at 641-799-3464 for a tour reservation.

As for the survey results, Unteidt said Main Street will hold two events on November 12; one at 8 a.m. for downtown business owners to hear about and regroup on the survey results, and another at the Soup and the Scoop event for the general public at 5:30 pm.