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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

City of Grinnell Finds its ‘Place’

Change is on the way for the people of Grinnell in the form of a “place making” campaign that will include a series of local construction developments and aesthetic improvements to the town over the coming year.

The campaign, which is being managed by RDG Planning & Design, arose from a desire to combine multiple city projects already in the works into a more unified effort.

“The city realized that it had several projects that would be happening at about the same time, but they weren’t being connected in any way,” said community development specialist Lucy Thorns. “It seemed like a unique opportunity to bring those projects together as a cohesive effort [towards] making Grinnell a better place as a whole.”

Projects encompassed by the campaign include improvements to the I-80 entrance along the Highway 146 corridor, plans for Central Park and the Veteran’s Memorial Building, improved street signs and the development of lofts at the Spaulding Center for Transportation. Also, under consideration is a potential 1.5 million dollar project to improve downtown building façades.

The project will be funded by the City of Grinnell and various individual grants, and will be enacted in 2014. One of the campaign’s main objectives is the preservation of Grinnell’s historic elements, and new constructions will draw upon the Sullivan Bank building for aesthetic inspiration.

But Thorns hopes that the project will be more than a series of cosmetic changes.

“There seems to be general consensus that Grinnell already has a very powerful sense of place,” she said. “Place making will help us find why that is, and how we can use projects and plans to tell the story of Grinnell and make it an even better place to live, work, study and play.”

Community input has already been a major component in the development of place making plans. At a recent meeting with local community organization The Grinnell Lions Club, town residents contributed to discussions about both the things that make Grinnell special and the areas in which it is lacking. Concerns were voiced over the lack of a nightlife to draw in younger residents and limited access to restaurants serving ethnic cuisines, but characterizations of the town were overwhelmingly positive and focused on the multitude of resources and events made available by proximity to Grinnell College, as well as the advantages of small town life and a tight-knit community.

City council member Sondi Burnell noted the town’s existing wealth of aesthetic richness.

“Right now, it’s beautiful,” Burnell said. “I want [people] to see vibrancy with that beauty … we want to create vibrancy that people will see coming and going.”

Representatives from RDG Planning & Design plan to hold an open house at the Drake Community Library at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 5 to share their plans and hear responses to their ideas from both students and permanent residents of the town.

To Burnell, this kind of community involvement is emblematic of what makes Grinnell different.

“What Grinnell means to me is the safe and quaint, friendly community [where] everybody helps everybody,” Burnell said. “When we have a problem or we have an issue, everybody helps … It’s not just one-sided. So, I guess what it means to me is community—community in its real definition.”

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