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Main Street Iowa design team visits Newton

The Main Street Iowa design specialists came to Newton for its first visit Wednesday, meeting with the Newton Main Street design committee to share about the services Main Street Iowa offers along with specific strategies for downtown Newton.

“The design department deals with all things physical: buildings, the streets and public areas, which can be broken down into two different types of improvements — building and public improvements,” Iowa Main Street Design Consultant Tim Reinders said.

Building improvements include maintenance, facades, interior rehabilitations, floor conversions and renovations. Public improvements include everything between the buildings: streets, sidewalks, infrastructure and amenities.

The presentation showed renovating downtown is not just about reconstructing downtown but rather preserving it.

“Why should you want to preserve your downtown?” Reinders said. “Some buildings are worth saving because they are good to look at. They are a gift to the street that enriches their surroundings.”

Reinders further explained many of the old buildings found around downtown Iowa, including Newton, still have plenty of life left in them and represent the historic identity to the town.

“Some buildings are adapted for other innovative and multiple uses,” Reinders said. “And others are worth saving because they are a link to our past and help us understand who we are.”

Reinders said older buildings are starting to become the trend in downtowns across the country.

“There’s a concept in downtown renovations that has an older, smaller and better mentality in being a measurement of how the character of buildings and blocks influence urban vitality,” Reinders said. “It simply says that people crave that unique character that downtown brings with an older designed building being something that people like.”

The Main Street Iowa design specialists implemented many before and after pictures of projects done throughout other Main Street Iowa communities.

“It’s about utilizing the traditional character and original design of buildings will always result in positive improvements,” Reinders said. “Many times these improvements are simply remove later alterations that have obscured this original architectural character.”

The presentation covered the history, preservation and renovations of many downtown districts across Iowa, but it revolved around the concept of a quote by well-known environmentalist Baba Dioum: “In the end, we preserve what we love. We love what we understand. We understand what we have been taught.”

For more information on the services and specific questions offered through the Newton Main Street design committee, contact Main Street Executive Director Andrew Bassman or Design Committee Chair Rita Reinheimer at the Newton Main Street office, located inside the Greater Newton Area Chamber of Commerce office.

Staff writer Zach Johnson may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 425, or at

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