CLEAR LAKE, Iowa - What was once the site of a pre-stressed concrete facility is transforming into a commercial hotspot.
Progress is moving along in the Courtway Park development on the northeast corner of I-35 and Iowa Highway 122. While the combined Marriott Hotel and Event Center is under construction and is expected to be completed by the end of the summer, as well as an Old Dominion facility slated to be built on the north side of the site, a new retail development called Starboard Square is taking shape next to the Marriott.
City council approved a development agreement with Momberg Land during their Monday night meeting. It would provide tax rebates over a 7-year period, providing money for infrastructure, and a professional service fee.
City council member Bennett Smith says momentum in the community is high with the project, and points to several key benefits the city has when it comes to attracting developers.
"We have high quality of life, low taxes, attractive amenities. We're going to have a brand new wellness center coming on line later this year. We have a lot of quality of life advantages and some very good stories we can tell."
While tax increment financing, or TIF, has been a controversial issue (and with some legislation slated to be discussed in Des Moines in House File 849), Smith believes TIF incentives are vital to development projects like these, particularly in rural areas.
"We use it in a very prudent way in Clear Lake. We've been very successful with it, and this is another example of that with Starboard Square."
Chad Schreck with North Iowa Corridor EDC believes the redevelopment along a key travel corridor is vital to attract visitors and potentially interested developers and businesses.
"Entry points in your community are so important. You want to make sure that people have a positive impression of your community."
As we return to some sense of normalcy, Schreck says a strong sense of community, strong work ethic and workforce, and a low unemployment rate may entice developers and businesses to the region.
"Even though we have that low unemployment, we don't have a ton of people, we have great people, and we've got people with skill sets that fit a lot of these jobs. Whether its high tech, manufacturing, retail or restaurants, people here are positive and supportive of their business. Even during COVID, we saw the stability that we have to offer in more rural communities like ours. We didn't have major ups and downs like other areas might, and that's been really encouraging and positive for us."
That stability is translating into calls from interested parties.
"The things they're looking for, the questions they're asking. They really appreciate that low cost of life and low cost of business, we don't have those swings."
Scheck says there are other development projects in the works, including the auctioning off of the former Shopko building, as well as some discussions regarding the former Sears space, and shovel ready sites in the south Mason City industrial park along the Avenue of the Saints.
Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Stacy Doughan sent this statement regarding the Starboard Square development:
"The Starboard Square Commercial Development is another great project that speaks to the vibrancy of our region. Throughout the last year, we’ve seen projects continue to move forward when other regions saw projects stalled or cancelled. It’s no surprise that a retail project popped up so close to the new Marriott hotel."