McGregor could be part of potential art projects

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By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

McGregor’s deputy clerk and economic development lead, Duane Boelman, recently presented the council with two opportunities the city has been given to participate in unique art projects.

The first, said Boelman, is an effort between Northeast Iowa RC&D and the River Bluffs Scenic Byway to feature scenes from along the byway on posters and wooden postcards.

Decorah artist Mary Ann Gloe will create the images. For a pledge of $1,500, Boelman said she would consider including Pikes Peak State Park.

“Pikes Peak, I think, is one of the most amazing views on the byway,” Boelman said at the July 18 council meeting.

The posters and wooden postcards, which Boelman said are the same size as regular postcards, but more substantial, would be available at outlets along the byway, including in McGregor.

“It would be a good opportunity to get McGregor’s name out there. A poster will be something nice that people will hold onto for a long time,” Boelman remarked. “Even the postcards people would be more apt to hold onto than toss.”

The council also liked the idea of promoting the community and agreed to pledge the $1,500. If Pikes Peak is not selected as one of the scenes, Boelman said the city won’t have to pay anything.

The second project Boelman presented to the council would include the installation of a public art piece in four to eight small communities in the region, with McGregor among them.

He said Northeast Iowa RC&D is considering submitting a National Endowment for the Arts grant, and is seeking a $12,500 commitment from communities in order to develop the grant application and pay for artist fees and installation costs.

Boelman said a local committee would be formed to determine what the art piece will look like, who will create it and where it will be located.

Council members expressed concerns about the cost, but Boelman said the project likely won’t begin for a couple years, so there’s time to raise funds through grants and donations. 

“I don’t think the city will fund the whole amount,” he said. “I think we could come up with other funding opportunities.”

The council approved making a $12,500 commitment on a 4-1 vote: Halvorson, Hallberg, Muehlbauer and Echard said “yes,” while Carroll voted “no.”

Pedestrian bridge work to be re-bid

The council approved plans, specifications, form of contract and opinion of cost for the new pedestrian bridge that will be constructed over B Street, where the old bridge was located until it was torn down last year. However, bids for the project came in 125 to 150 percent over the engineer’s estimate of $180,000 to $198,000, prompting the council to reject the lowest bid.

“This time of year is tough to be bidding. Everyone’s busy,” said Tim Cutsforth, engineer with H.R. Green. 

He recommended the city put the project back out for bids in September, in the hopes of receiving more favorable prices.

“That’s not the greatest time for the elevator,” Cutsforth said, “but I think we can work around the traffic.”

City administrator Lynette Sander said the new pedestrian bridge will be similar to the original in both looks and dimension. The bridge will have a metal frame with Trex decking, and the pylons and steps will be made of concrete.

Zoning revisions considered

Taking a recommendation from the city’s planning and zoning commission, the council gave city attorney Mike Schuster the go-ahead to draft an ordinance revising C-2 zoning for first floor rear apartments in the community.

Under the revision, Sander said first floor rear apartments would be allowed in commercial buildings on Main and A Streets if they take up 50 percent or less of the floor space.

“Some buildings are so big, it’s prohibitive to have that big a retail space,” she explained.

The council admitted the change is largely based on restoration of the Sullivan Opera House. The developer plans to have three retail storefronts in the front of the first floor, while the back would include apartments as well as an expansion of the next-door McGregor Historical Museum. 

At 2,500 square feet apiece, those spaces are large, said Halvorson.

“That’s 1,250 for each” the retail space and apartment, she said. “That’s perfect.”

Carroll was concerned 50 percent was too much.

“And once you get an apartment in there, you’re probably not going to get it back out,” he cautioned. 

Halvorson said retail spaces are getting smaller, though.

“It’s hard for a store to pay rent and stay in business,” she said. “They can’t [put an apartment in front], which is a good thing.”

“It might draw more people in,” Echard added.

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