Urban engineering professor visits Marshalltown for doctoral case study

A University of Tokyo Ph.D. candidate visited Marshalltown Tuesday to learn about successful Main Street programs.

Hiro Matsumoto, with the Department of Urban Engineering at the university, visited four Iowa cities as part of a whirlwind tour put on by Main Street Iowa. The tour’s purpose was arm Matsumoto with information about successful American Main Street District models for a doctoral thesis.

Matsumoto said he hopes to take some of the different aspects of the revitalization efforts he observed while in Iowa home to Japan as a case study.

Jenny Etter, central business district director, said retrofitting buildings to serve a purpose originally untended is something on which the central business district prides itself. Renovations on the Kibbey and Iowa Wholesale buildings and Tallcorn Towers as well as the converting the old library into city hall all exemplify concerted efforts toward revitalization.

Etter also pointed to numerous facade upgrades since 2002, and she said volunteerism and community partnerships are essential to Marshalltown’s continued success.

“We have a lot going on,” she said. “It’s an exciting time in Marshalltown.”

Etter and Thom Guzman, director of the Iowa Downtown Resource Center, and Michael Wagler, coordinator for Main Street Iowa, took Matsumoto along Main Street showing him significant sites that CBD has spearheaded, such as the upcoming conversion of the 135 E. Main St. lot into green space and the Tallcorn Towers and the Kibbey buildings.

Prior to the tour, Etter told Matsumoto how the city has acquired $14 million worth of property to be rehabilitated since 2002 and has made Marshalltown’s 3,800 public parking spots more accessible.

Etter said despite an obviously language barrier, Matsumoto still asked many questions about volunteers and funding; he seemed rather interested and impressed with what Marshalltown has to offer.