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What’s Next for Sheldon’s Downtown?


Date posted - May 9, 2014


Now that our streetscape project is complete, it’s time to start focusing on other ways to help improve our downtown. A few times a week, I click on the webcam on KIWA’s web site, just to see what’s going on. My, what a sleepy little downtown we have. There’s never much going on. There’s not much traffic and I see very few pedestrians walking the sidewalks. It saddens me to see it this way because I remember when downtown Sheldon was quite the hub of activity. I don’t feel the streetscape project alone was enough to jump start our downtown, and much more has to be done to turn downtown back into the heart of our community.

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15 Responses to “What’s Next for Sheldon’s Downtown?”

  1. Robert says:

    I have several suggestions that might help make our downtown better:

    1. Establish a building facade improvement program that would help downtown building owners finance facade improvements that would include new doors, windows, awnings, window boxes, decorative cornices, brick repair, signage, paint, etc.. This program should include design standards that will help improve the overall downtown appearance.

    2. Offer tax increment financing for business owners willing to turn their 2nd floors into quality apartments, condos, and office space.

    3. Establish customer friendly business hours. How about having the stores stay open one or two evenings a week and staying open all day Saturday?

    4. Add more activities that bring people downtown and have businesses remain open during these activities. How about having an art festival or food festival downtown? Having a car show or antique tractor show downtown? How about a downtown bike fest?

    5. Establish an area, possibly the community building parking lot, where they could have outdoor concerts, community talent shows, fashion shows etc.. A downtown green space with an amplitheater would be nice if we could only find a place for it.

    6. Have a community Christmas tree downtown. We could have a lighting ceremony and we could have a community Christmas concert and Christmas pageant in the community building.

    7. Add some public art displays downtown. We are a farming community, so how about some painted cow or pig sculptures, or having murals on the side of buildings made from corn and soybeans? How about a chalk the street festival?

    8. How about painting old vintage looking advertisements on the sides of building that reflect some of the history of Sheldon, like an advertisement for the Praire Queen Mill or for the Arlington Hotel.

    9. Hanging banners and flags downtown.

    10. If a facade improvement program was to be established, maybe we could partner with a university that has an architectural design program and have their students design a facade makeover for each downtown building. Some building owners might choose not to use these designs, but some might. Just getting a few facades redone might create an inspiration for others to improve their facades too.

    11. Move the Home Show downtown to the community building.

    12. How about having some community fundraisers that would help fund improvement projects downtown, like holiday light displanys, public restrooms, art displays, etc..

  2. KW says:

    Think something’s are being forgotten. Years ago there were many different kinds of business down town. Shoe repair, grocery store, meat locker, hard ware stores, a very popular movie theater (popular because we only had three TV channels), men’s clothing(when men wore suites), gas stations, popular places to eat and most of these business move out to Highway 18 long before the bypass came through. When you take those kinds of business off Main Street that keep the normal house hold running you are going to see less foot traffic, you are going to see the remaining business struggle for every dime they can get. People use to walk down town to do all their shopping because they did not drive anywhere they could walk too. It’s not that the people all stopped shopping in Sheldon it is that all the things they shop for are no longer on main street. In my eyes if you want Main Street to survive we need population and to get population we need jobs and for that we need to sell our industrial parks to more companies like Ziegler, White wolf web that employee more people that will move to town. That’s just my two cents worth.

    • Robert says:

      I agree, that downtown has changed over the years with a lot of businesses relocating along our highways. That definately contributes to losing foot traffic downtown. If our downtown is to survive and prosper, we may have to give some thought into changing the whole purpose of our downtown. It just might take a little vision and some imagination. How about having our downtown turned into more of an entertainment destination for Northwest Iowa with cafes, ice cream shops, an old fashioned drug store, antique and gift shops, and some pubs? How about having some horse drawn carriages?

  3. doug white says:

    Robert you have several good ideas,but K.W. nailed it,as much as we all would like to turn back the clock we can’t. I believe growing the population is the key,perhaps like New York State is doing——-offering no taxes for ten years if you come. I live in Minneapolis and most large suburbs are trying to create a ‘small town’ atmosphere. It can be done,I still love Sheldon but even when I lived there 1944- 1962 attracting industry was not Sheldon’s strong suit!

  4. Robert says:

    I agree with you both, KW and Doug, that Sheldon needs to do a better job at attracting new industries to help grow our population. We need to offer attractive incentive plans to get industries to take a serious look at locating here. Offer them tax incentives that basically makes it cheaper to locate here than to locate anywhere else. We also need to offer incentives to help grow industries that already exist here.

    When industrial companies are looking at locations for them to expand, they look at many different things…. What is the highway system like? Do they have rail service? Is there an airport nearby? Does the town have a good school system? Are there good parks and recreation opportunities available? What is the work force like and is there a college nearby that could be used to help train employees? Are industrial lots available with all the available utilities in place? Are medical services available? Churches? Is this a community where employees would be happy to live in?

    Industry leaders also look at what a town’s downtown and other retail areas look like. Are there several good places to shop? Are there good places to eat at? Are there entertainment options? Are building vacant or full? Is the area clean and does it look like people take pride in their community? This is why I think it’s so important to make sure our downtown looks it’s best. As you can see, Sheldon offers most of the assets that industries are looking for, but I feel our downtown could use a little more work.

  5. downtown merchant says:

    DOWNTOWNRETAIL STORES ARE NOT AS BAD AS SOME COMMENTS SEEM TO EXPRESS. BUT IT WILL NEVER BE LIKE IT WAS WHEN EVERYONE WENT TO TOWN ONCE A WEEK USUALLY FRIDAY NIGHT. TIMES CHANGE, SOME SHELDON STORES TRIED BEING OPEN TWO NIGHTS A WEEK , THAT WAS NOT PROFITABLE. BACK IN THE GOOD OLD DAYS KIDS HAD ACTIVITIES ON FRIDAY NIGHT AND PARENTS AND GRANDPARENTS WENT YO WATCH. NOW FAMILW CAN GO TO ACTIVITIES EVERY NIGHT OF THE WEEK, AND DONT FORGET CHURCH NIGHT. KW MENTIONED BUSINESS MOVING OUT TO BYPASS. HE MUST NOT SHOP DOWNTOWN SHELDON, BECAUSE OUT OF THE PLACES HE TALKED ABOUT THERE STILL IS DOWNTOWN SHOE REPAIR, GROCERIES ,HARDWARE STORE,MOVIE THREATER,CLOTHING, AND PLACES TO EAT.MOST STORES ARE OPEN 50 T0 60 HOURS PER WEEK, IN SHELDON IF SOMEONE CANT SHOP DURING THOSE HOURS THEN MAYBE IT IS THERE FAULT NOT THE STORES. SHELDON COULD DO BETTER WITH ALOT OF THINGS BUT LOOK AT SIBLEY, SANBORN, HARTLEY, AND OTHER TOWNS OF 5,000 POPULATION OR LESS AND WE ARENT DOING TO BAD.THERE ISNT A WHOLE LOT WE CANT BUY IN SHELDON, BUT WE WILL ALWAYS DRIVE OUT OF TOWN TO SHOP FOR STUFF. JUST SHOP SHELDON FIRST AND IF NOT AVAILABLE THEN YOU HAVE NO CHOICE

    • KW says:

      I will have you know I spend every dime of my money in this town. I don’t see a meat market on Main Street and I don’t by Mexican groceries and the theater is not as big a deal today as it was 25 years ago. If you are a downtown merchant and have had a business any length of time, you would have recognized I was sticking up for you. Next time shut off your caps I don’t like being yelled at.

  6. SJ says:

    If Sheldon really wants to grow, I think the city needs to try to find a developer who specializes in building retail developments and convince them to build a whole new shopping area here in Sheldon, preferably out by the bypass so we can draw people off the highway. Work with the developer to recruit several national retailers that would make Sheldon more of a regional shopping destination. Make the new commercial area well thought out with pedestrian friendly sidewalks, lots of parking, public green spaces, and a good mix of retailers. They could have a Main Street type area for smaller stores, and other areas for larger big box stores. Since large cities have become saturated with big box stores, retailers are looking at building smaller prototype stores in smaller communities and I believe many of them would do well here in Sheldon. Recruit Walmart, Home Depot, Office Depot, Dress Barn, Hibbet Sporting Goods, Ross, TJ Max, Marshalls, Home Goods, Kohl’s, Michaels Crafts, Gordman’s, Petsmart, Michaels, Old Navy, Shoe Carnival, Famous Footwear, Best Buy, Dollar Tree, etc.. Attract some of those stores and lots of the smaller retail stores will follow.

    I know many of you say we must support the local merchants and keep out the chain stores, but I’m not convinced that just because you buy from local merchant that your dollars stay here in Sheldon. I’ve seen many of Sheldon’s store owners doing their shopping in Sioux Falls, Sioux City, Spencer, and Sioux Center. How is that keeping the money here in town. I’m also not sure that local retailers are paying better wages than national retailer chains.

    Next, Sheldon needs to draw sales tax dollars from all those people traveling on the highway 60 bypass. Sheldon needs to recruit someone to build a large truck stop that’s easy for large trucks to get in and out of. Recruit a few more hotel, restaurant, and convenient store chains to build near our highway exits. This will generate an aweful lot of sales tax dollars, a lot of it coming from people who are just passing through. Instead of having people drive on to Worthington or Sioux City to spend the night, buy gas, or grab something to eat, how about having those people spend their money here instead?

    I like the idea of turning Sheldon’s downtown into a regional entertainment district. We could have a smaller version of what’s going on down in Omaha with the World Market. Stores fronts could be converted back to what they looked like in Sheldon’s early days and could house small pubs, local art galleries, eateries, coffee houses, gift shops, antique emporiums, ice cream shops, etc.. The old downtown area could have art fairs, food festivals, craft fairs, farmers markets, or maybe a music festival or street dances. When people all over Northwest Iowa are looking for something to do, it would be a great if they would get in their cars and drive to Sheldon. I like the idea of having public art on display downtown and the idea of painting vintage advertisements on buildings like Robert mentioned. Sheldon used to be a big circus town, so maybe we could have a few vintage “Circus Coming to Town” advertisements too. Instead of Sheldon being a boring town that most high school and college kids can’t wait to get out of after graduation, maybe many of them will decide that Sheldon is a fun place to live and may decide to stay living here.

    Last of all, we need to be super aggressive at attracting new industries. It’s incredible how many people here in Sheldon drive to Boyden, Hull, Rock Valley, Orange City, and Sioux Center just to have a good paying manufacturing job. How many of those people who commute to those towns for work end up buying gas or doing their shopping in those towns before coming back to Sheldon. Lets attract new industries here and keep those dollars right here in Sheldon.

  7. SJ says:

    I was just discussing ways to help Sheldon grow with a friend of mine over coffee and we came up with a few more ideas. My friend and I both thought that Sheldon could use more affordable housing for young people. It would be nice if Sheldon had a nice apartment complex for younger people who are just starting off on their own or for single people or families who don’t want the hassle of owning a home. It would be nice if there was an apartment complex with 50+ quality units that had amenities like a business center, fitness center, pool, etc.. With the college in town, I would think it wouldn’t be too hard to get that many units leased.

    We then discussed the importance of attracting new industry. My friend agreed with me that it would be nice to attract some national retail stores (he thought we should add Big Lots to the list), and he pointed out that if Sheldon had some good paying manufactures come to town, that would boost the average income in Sheldon, and in return, look more attractive to retailers looking for a place to locate. We agreed that tax benefits or free land would a good place to start. We both can not figure out why Sheldon, a town with a good college, a 4 lane divided highway, and rail service is having a hard time attracting new industries when other towns around us without those things have lots of new industries. Does the city of Sheldon have someone who actively seeks out new industries or new retailers? If not, we should.

    Over all, my friend and I both agree that Sheldon needs to be more aggressive when it comes to offering incentives to industries and needs to be more friendly towards retailers interested in locating here. We can do this and make our city grow, or we can sit back, do nothing, and complain when all the towns around us have better stores, better manufacturing jobs, and a growing population. That’s my two cents.

  8. Free Man says:

    If you want to grow Sheldon you need industry. Retail will not cut it.

  9. Happytimes says:

    Wow! Watch the City Council’s meeting this coming Wednesday. They have a chance to add jobs in Sheldon, IA. However, because of jealousy, greed, and stupidity, our community has failed to grow. Several years ago, we had over 5200 people in Sheldon and we have lost population to the point we are around 5000. Watch Sheldon, we have an opportunity this next council meeting, will they understand most of the comments given above about JOBS? or will this be another missed opportunity.

  10. Bob says:

    What type of jobs are available, Happytimes? Why do you think the council is going to squander this opportunity? I realize that seems like a foolish question given they’ve squandered away plenty of opportunities in the past… e.g. Pella Windows, but I’m curious.

  11. Lee Ann says:

    There was a time when the local business assoc. did not want this town to grow. They didn’t want Rosenboom to grow, so they had to go up near the lakes for another location. They liked Sheldon just like it always had been. Didn’t want a large group of new people moving in. And Caterpillar and a few others decided to look elsewhere because they weren’t getting any positives from the town. Then they realized here in Sheldon that things weren’t growing. I, for once, agree with Free Man. We need industry, building a store to start in town where nobody has any income won’t work.

    Although I would love to see more industry come to town, with stores and restaurants following, I do not want to see a big box store come to Sheldon. That has, in so many towns, just let the Mom and Pop stores just die out. If a Walmart came to Sheldon, our Main Street would be boarded up. I’ve seen it happen in other places. I think a Home Depot, Staples, manufacturing industries would really help here. But I don’t want to encourage competition with downtown. I haven’t bought anything in a big box store in over 5 years. I do buy downtown. They recognize me as a customer. That’s why I like living in a small town.

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