The change between downtown Scottsbluff (pop. 15,039) in 2013 and downtown Scottsbluff four years ago is nothing short of dramatic and transformational, resulting in measurable residential and economic growth.
A key revitalization project involved 49 businesses with a myriad of additions and improvements, including new signage, new or refurbished awnings, interior renovations, and building expansions. Accessibility, historic preservation, and public safety were influential motivators for the necessity of the project. Businesses benefitted from exterior building improvements, as did public areas spruced up with landscaping and canopies under which outdoor activities such as farmers’ markets were held.
Accessibility also proved to be a major goal. Public downtown restrooms were constructed where none previously existed. Barriers in two parking lots were removed to meet standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act, as these had caused injuries before. Signage that previously cluttered the parking lots (often confusing customers) also was removed. The street lights were taken out, to change the flow of traffic through the area. Furthermore, lower speed limits were instituted and pedestrian crosswalks were added.
The Nebraska Department of Economic Development awarded a $350,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). Beyond these funds, much of the community was invested in the development of the downtown area. The city provided about $900,000 for repaving Broadway St., the main street in Scottsbluff, in its entirety, and improving the parking spaces. Area businesses kicked in about $600,000 for their renovations. This overhaul of the downtown area aimed to address any blighted or slum areas that previously existed, consistent with national development objectives.
Rawnda Pierce, Executive Director for Twin Cities Development, helped with the development of the project. She said that the changes in the buzz downtown and the hustle and bustle has been noticeable, saying there was a ‘definite difference’. She noted that there are neighboring cities who would like to have similar projects and improvements, because they have seen the impact it has had on Scottsbluff. It is true that action begets action.