Downtown Waterloo is being rebuilt block by block - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

SPECIAL REPORT: Downtown Waterloo is being rebuilt block by block

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

It's said the downtown is the heart of a community. A couple decades ago, Waterloo's downtown was in cardiac arrest. But through a lot of hard work and a big investment by the city, Waterloo's heart is once again pumping strong.

Renovations throughout the downtown have sparked a renewed interest in the area. Blake Landau is part of a new crop of business owners in downtown. He owns Newton's Paradise Cafe and also recently moved nearby.

"So many people cut it down for so long that they're starting to say, somebody's got to do something about it and they got to take that effort to make it happen," Landau said.

Landau says he's seeing more people come downtown like his customer, Kathy Ormord.

"I remember shopping downtown here when I was a child at Black's Department Store,"  Ormord said.

Ormord also says she is excited about the variety of things happening in downtown.

"The restaurants in downtown Waterloo and Cedar Falls, the Dan Gable Museum and the Grout Museum and the Amphitheater. I'm excited and I do like the Center for the Arts," Ormord said.

Business owners like Landau know the history they are up against.

"If you look back at the history when John Deere came here with Rath Packing here, it thrived throughout the 60's and 70's. And then the 80's when Rath closed and John Deere cut a lot of jobs it kind of disappointed a little bit," Landau said.

Mayor Buck Clark says the amount of tax payer money used for downtown projects is less than most people think.

"Most of the projects themselves haven't cost the tax payers a dollar as far as the cost of the projects. Now having said that, we get grants and there are matches required for many of the grants we've gotten and there's certainly an involvement with those projects that the city has purchased the land and donated or sold for the proverbial dollar to developers," Clark said.

The city feels the investment is necessary to revitalize the area.

"We feel it's just way more than worth it and the pay back is going to be huge," Clark said.

In Waterloo, not all of the projects will bring in big tax dollars, but they will keep the businesses that are already here, happy.

"They are going to provide again that quality of life issue that is ongoing to bring other companies and other businesses and industry to our town that will be huge tax paying entities that would may not have come had we not had those kind of entities," Clark said.

As for Landau and all the new small businesses owners, they're just asking for a chance.

"A lot of people who don't live in Waterloo, who live in Cedar Falls or Hudson or Independence - that kind of person who just stayed away really need to come reevaluate it and see what is really special about it," Landau said.

Many of these projects were part of the Cedar Valley River Renaissance and those projects such as the amphitheater and river walk trails will be finished this June.

Watch a replay of the Web chat with KWWL's John Wilmer and The Courier's Tim Jamison about the future of downtown Waterloo.

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