The College furthers its plan on the “Zone of Confluence”


By Jackson Schulte

Since 2013, Grinnell College has been buying properties in downtown Grinnell in what has been dubbed the “Zone of Confluence” initiative. Recently, the College has upped its investment in the project, purchasing three more properties downtown. 

Spearheading the initiative for the College is the Office for Community Enhancement, under Monica Chavez’s direction.    

Faulconer Gallery Director Lesley Wright is the former chairperson of the Grinnell Tourism Committee and a current member of the committee. “[The Zone of Confluence] may provide a space where visiting artists can interact with the wider public,” Wright wrote in an email to The S&B. “It may provide gathering space for students and the community (much like Saints Rest and McNally’s). It may create more of a city plaza type area with mixed use properties. It may provide a more intimate space for music and poetry readings. Lots of ideas, but no firm plans that I know of.” 

Wright also added that in her experience, collaborations between the College and the city have always benefited both parties.   

“The work that the Office of Community Enhancement and Engagement does is always thoughtful, and developed as a partnership, NOT as something imposed upon the community,” she wrote.    

Wright is aware that without a positive relationship between the College and the city of Grinnell, there are problems for both parties. 

“Colleges are wonderful public spaces,” Wright wrote, “And we bring thousands of prospective students and families to town. The quality of the town is part of what sells the quality of Grinnell College. We want to be proud of our city, and we want the city to be proud of the College as a welcoming space.”   

Wright says she would like to see additional retail spaces that could complement existing retail spaces without bringing competition.   

“The Zone of Confluence has the potential to fill in a retail gap between campus and the community along Broad and Main Streets and thus will add to the vibrancy and vitality of the town. For Faulconer Gallery, it will help bring people our way, leading them to Park and 6th and our entrance, which is great,” Wright wrote.   

Along with boosting tourism to Grinnell, the College feels that the Zone of Confluence has the potential to attract more students to Grinnell. In order to compete with other college towns nationwide, the office of admissions feels like an improved downtown could attract students who are interested in communities with more amenities.   

“Our goal is to provide students with a campus and community atmosphere that promotes the mission of Grinnell College. We are pleased to contribute to community building that will enhance the student experience,” said Joe Bagnoli, vice president for enrollment and dean of admissions and financial aid. 

“The Zone of Confluence will provide students with spaces similar to those available in college towns across the country where our prospective students are also considering the possibility of enrollment,” Bagnoli said.