Downtown Columbus could be one step closer to becoming a certified creative district and earning a $10,000 grant to help with future activities.
ABOUT THE PHOTOS: TOP: Terrace Books Owner Deanna Howerter chats with the tour group about her love for books and why she wanted to open a shop; Bottom left: The tour group chats with staff at Wildflower Pastries; Bottom right: Artzy Haven Owner Kristin Stock discusses her love for scrapbooking and the renovations done to her building.)
Two Nebraska Arts Council representatives, Rachel Morgan and Lara Marsh, on May 4th, were taken on a tour of downtown to get a better feel of the atmosphere in downtown Columbus and what it has to offer.
City Planning and Economic Development Coordinator Jean Van Iperen and Elley Coffin, community coordinator and the Columbus Arts Council's executive director, helped the duo explore the area. The group started the morning at the Columbus Innovation Center before stopping by Columbus Area Antique Fire Apparatus Museum, Terrace Books, Wildflower Pastries, Dusters Restaurant, The Friedhof Building and Artzy Haven.
“I think overall everything went well. As a Creative District, we do still need to finalize our strategic plan so the feedback will be extremely helpful in that regard,” Van Iperen said.
During each stop, either business owners or managers talked about what their place had to offer and what they loved about being downtown.
Stop one was the Columbus Area Antique Fire Apparatus Museum, where Dennis Hirschbrunner, president of the Columbus Area Antique Fire Apparatus Preservation Society, discussed how the nonprofit museum came together and grants helped make the building renovation possible.
Next up was Terrace Books on 11th Street, where Owner Deanna Howerter showed off her outdoor patio and shared what inspired her to open a bookstore.
(ABOUT THE PHOTOS: Top: Rob and Tracy Gasper, owner of The Friedhof Building, talking with the tour group; Bottom left: Dennis Hirschbrunner, president of the Columbus Area Antique Fire Apparatus Preservation Society, discusses the Columbus Area Antique Fire Apparatus Museum; Bottom right: The tour group checks out a mural located on 14th Street.)
The tour then darted over to the west side of the creative district along 33rd Avenue to stop by Wildflower Pastries before moving to Dusters and the Friedhof on 13th Street. At the Friedhof, Owners Rob and Tracy Gasper talked about how they renovated the old Schweser’s building into an event center that has been known for hosting music nights, weddings and more. The owners of S.T.A.R. Escape Rooms in the same building also popped by to talk about their entertainment establishment.
The tour concluded with one last stop along 13th Street at Artzy Haven, where Owner Kristin Stock talked about all the renovation work that was done to turn the old two-level department store building into a scrapbooking haven.
The glimpse into downtown Columbus left the Nebraska Arts Council representatives happy.
“You have a lot going on downtown. This is great,” said Morgan, creative district coordinator for the Nebraska Arts Council. “And it’s really exciting to see the new buildings being done, like the police department and community building, but also the renovations happening. You’re not standing still, you’re moving forward. That’s what we want to see.”
Once the tour concluded, the group and several members of the Columbus Creative District met at the Innovation Center to go over comments received regarding the local collective’s Creative District application. Van Iperen said there were a few things that didn’t translate well on paper that made a lot more sense to the Nebraska Arts Council following the tour.
“An example of this is why we wanted the railroad tracks to divide our district,” Van Iperen said. “Once they saw the tremendous impact the businesses on the south side offered to the district, they thoroughly understood why we did what we did.”
The tour itself was one of three steps to become certified by the Nebraska Arts Council in addition to filling out a 40-plus page workbook and completing a strategic plan.
If the local district ultimately gets certified, it will receive a $10,000 grant to use to kick off activities within the district and also have more than $250,000 that will be available to it in grant funding within the first three years to continue to develop the district.
Van Iperen said she’s appreciative of all the business owners who took the time to visit with the tour group, noting that says a lot about the ever-growing downtown district.
“I always enjoy showing off what Columbus’ downtown has to offer and today was no exception,” she said. “The business owners that were willing to welcome us into their space represented the community well and exemplify why Columbus’ Creative District should be certified.”