As a Nebraska Lied Main Street Community from 1995-2005, Gothenburg understood the importance of maintaining historic downtown buildings as a way to ensure a continuing healthy business climate. Customer’s perception of businesses’ success directly correlated to exterior and interior conditions, and impacted their decisions to shop there or go elsewhere. So when Dawson Area Development presented a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) opportunity to the City and the Community Development Office to fix up the downtown, merchants and business leaders were understandably enthused and excited about the many possibilities.
The City, Community Development Office, and Dawson Area Development worked together to compile the application and create the presentation. Dawson Area Development also acted as grant administrator and contact between businesses and the Nebraska Historical Society. The $250,000 CDBG awarded by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development required matching funds that the City Council was able to provide for the initial planning phase. A remainder of funding also was matched by the businesses that received assistance.
Gothenburg has benefited from more than $1 million in improvements to the downtown with the help of the CDBG funding since receiving initial funds in spring 2009. Businesses have seen utility costs go down due to ten energy efficiency improvements. Handicap accessibility also has been improved with the addition of automatic door openers in buildings and an elevator to allow second floor access. Twenty-five buildings received façade improvements. A new revolving loan fund has improved funding for a new business in a vacant downtown building.
There is a new pride being expressed in Gothenburg’s downtown. In fact, changes have spurred other building owners to make improvements without the use of revitalization grant assistance. City Administrator Bruce Clymer said, “The transformation of the downtown is exciting. The dollars spent have provided a much needed boost to our local economy; not only in making the exterior of buildings more appealing, but also dollars spent for carpenters, electricians, HVAC contractors, etc. With over $1 million dollars of investment in our downtown through this project, we believe our community has maximized the investment of funds through the Nebraska Department of Economic Development’s Community Development Block Grant program.”
Matt Williams of Gothenburg State Bank said, “The project was very important to the continued growth of our community. We used the revitalization funds and it allowed us to expand our renovation project. The ultimate benefit of this program is the long-term improvement of our downtown and this benefits all of Gothenburg.”