Downtown areas often function as the center hub of a town’s primary business and entertainment. A thriving downtown is the sign of an active community. The downtown also often impacts peoples’ impressions of a town. The City of Hastings (pop. 24,907), believing that their downtown is the “face” of their town, looked to the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to help them update and “refresh” their downtown area. The city stated that they see a ‘vibrant downtown’ as the “social, cultural and business center of the community…” and that their goal is to transform their downtown into this image for the community.
As is true of many downtown revitalization projects, one main goal for the Hastings project was to help fund façade improvements for existing buildings and businesses, to attract more people, in and out of town, to the downtown area, as well as attract new businesses to become stakeholders in downtown Hastings. Another goal is to open up and create more public space for the community and make the downtown feel more open and welcoming to residents and visitors alike. Former Lt. Gov. Sheehy stated in 2012 when the project was first announced that, “Downtowns really are the heart of our community and Hastings has taken to heart the revitalization of the downtown area.”
Hastings received $350,000 in CDBG monies, matched by $112,000 from the city. The total project budget is $462,000. The national objective for this project was to address slum and blighted areas. Project activities began in fall 2013 and are projected to be complete by mid-to late-2015.
Along with aiding façade improvements for businesses, this project targeted certain buildings for restoration. For example, the Block 24 project on 2nd Ave. and St. Joseph was targeted to renovate two buildings that had fallen into disrepair and were no longer totally structurally sound. The exterior and the interiors of each building was restored to add 5,000 sq. ft. of retail space to the area. Additionally, the green space next to the Block 24 project was fixed up to be aesthetically welcoming, which gives the east side of the downtown area a new look with the renovated buildings and now-verdant green space.
Having a welcoming and open downtown area that encourages business to thrive instills confidence in the community and reaffirms the idea that Nebraska supports the growth of all of its communities. Nebraska wants to see communities thrive and it is projects like these that show this is the direction the state is moving.