By AUDREY INGRAM, Times Herald Staff Writer
December 8, 2014
During Manning’s annual Weihnachtsfest celebration, Manning leaders cut the ribbon on an $800,000 downtown revitalization project that restored 17 building facades in the past three years.
The project was conducted in partnership with Main Street Manning, the Main Street Iowa division of the Iowa Economic Development Authority and the private business owners.
This week, the city was selected for a new partnership — Manning leaders and downtown businesses will work with Drake University and the Iowa Economic Development Authority’s Downtown Resource Center to market Manning as a west-central Iowa restaurant and tourism destination and local business incubator.
Other goals of the partnership include improving the “cultural and aesthetic climate” of the downtown, development of business retention and transition plans, and creation of a business recruitment strategy.
Mandi McReynolds, coordinator of service learning at Drake University, cited excitement about ongoing projects in Manning — Cliff’s Place recently reopened after a $90,000 interior renovation; Manning alum Jaime England and her husband, Ben, are returning to renovate an empty storefront into a combination coffee bar, deli and retail space; and local leaders are working to develop a park around the historic Milwaukee railroad trestle, among others — as one of the key reasons Manning was one of two communities selected for the pilot program.
“We found there was a lot happening in the small town,” she said. “We were impressed with the level of leadership.”
The Drake program is “holistic,” McReynolds described — it will pull the resources of multiple Drake University classes and departments and will continue from the concept proposal to implementation, which could run for 12 to 16 months.
This program is the first to incorporate the state development authority and Downtown Resource Center, but it will build on a century-long Drake tradition of actively engaging in community projects, McReynolds said.
It is also a “great opportunity to expose future citizens and long-term residents to work in small towns,” she added — Drake University has a high percentage of out-of-state students, but more than 60 percent of its graduates stay in Iowa.
The second community selected for the pilot program is Perry, which aims to improve navigation through town and repurpose some empty downtown storefronts to make the area more inviting to bicyclists arriving on the Raccoon Valley Trail.
Main Street Manning board president Ron Reischl said he was “thrilled” Manning was selected for the pilot project, which will help tie together work done through other independent partnerships with Iowa State University classes, Main Street Iowa grants and local government and organization coalitions.
“The end goal for Manning is to be a vibrant community for decades to come,” he said. “We need to build on the strengths we have.”
He views the marketing effort as two-fold — a micro-marketing plan will let people at the Manning Recreation Center for sports tournaments or the German Hausbarn for weddings know what is available just up Main Street, while a macro-marketing plan will utilize social media to draw in tourists from the four-county area surrounding Manning.
Reischl also hopes the Drake partners can help Manning develop a calendar of social events — the downtown will have a green space available for such activities when the old hospital facility is torn down.
McReynolds said she has visited both Manning and Perry, but not in a long while — she is excited to explore the area.
“We look forward to building a relationship with these communities and creating long-term impact,” she said. “We’re excited to see what the future holds.”
Leaders review proposals from ISU students to upgrade city signs
By AUDREY INGRAM, Times Herald Staff Writer
Manning isn’t a “boring, sleepy town,” said Iowa State University graphic design student Alexandria Collins — so new welcome signs should be “metal, modern and sleek.”
Local leaders traveled to Iowa State University’s campus in Ames last week to see signage recommendations from a graphic design practicum class. The project, through which students made a site visit to Manning in late October, is the latest of five partnerships between Manning and Iowa State University students.
The original design for a new welcome sign came from a prior ISU partnership. The proposed sign features three layers of blue and gray metal, giving the cut-out “Manning” and the city’s four skyline elements — the water tower, the railroad trestle, the German Hausbarn and Trinity Church — a 3-D effect.
Puck Custom Enterprises has offered to donate materials and create the new signs using its precision laser. The design also leaves room to add backlighting to the name of the city or to the skyline design.
The current ISU class used these themes to suggest additional signs for the north and south entrances to town and to direct individuals traveling through Manning to the various landmarks.
The students recommended removing as many signs as possible from the stretch of Highway 141 heading into Manning from the east in order to reduce “clutter” and competition with the main welcome sign.
They did not offer many suggestions for repurposing the existing Bavarian-style welcome signs.
The practicum class, comprised primarily of juniors and seniors, is designed to give students an opportunity to work with real-world clients such as municipalities and nonprofit organizations, lecturer Keo Pierron said.
The class has worked with other towns on different aspects of branding, but this was the first way-finding project, he said.
“Manning is definitely small-town Iowa,” Pierron said. “You can tell the town is proud just by the upkeep of Main Street.”
Though reluctant to put a specific number on the value of the services the ISU students provided, based on the hours accrued on-site and the scope of the project, which included recommendations for multiple signs, Pierron said a similar consultation from a design firm could have run into the tens of thousands of dollars by the time the signs were completed.
Main Street Manning board president Ron Reischl cited the dialogue with the students as equally valuable as the designs they proposed.
Manning leaders hope to pour the foundation for the new sign by early spring of 2015 and have the sign installed by next summer’s “Party on the Bricks” celebration of the 100th anniversary of the city’s brick Main Street.