- Associated Press - Monday, January 16, 2017

WALNUT, Iowa (AP) - Walnut residents hope streetscape work and building renovations will help return their small town to its former glory.

The Pottawattamie County community of around 775 residents has long been known as the Antique City for its many antique shops. Merchants and city officials want to burnish that distinction.

“Small towns, unless you have some big industry, the big companies, unless you have something like that, you have to find something that’ll keep your community thriving,” Walnut Mayor Gene Larsen told The Daily Nonpareil (https://bit.ly/2jgI3fV). “In our case, a big part of that is our downtown area. We’re trying to maintain the vitality of the antique trade.”

Construction started in November on facade upgrades on 16 storefronts. The work should be finished in time for the 35th annual Walnut Antique Show on Father’s Day weekend, June 16-18. The streetscape work will come later and include upgrades to sidewalks, curbs and gutters as well as straightening and leveling the cobblestone roadway downtown.

“The end goal is to make it a safer place,” Larsen said. “We have a high level of pedestrian traffic in the downtown area. It’s imperative we increase the safety factor on sidewalks and streets.”

Renovations to City Hall were cut to save money, but plans call for improvements sometime after the project is complete, City Clerk Terri Abel said.

The $1.09 million project is funded in part by a $400,000 Iowa West Foundation grant and a $300,000 revitalization grant from the Iowa Economic Development Authority. Business owners are contributing funds, and the city is putting up $335,000 in local option sales tax dollars.

“We’ve been saving for this the past few years,” Abel said. “It’ll give us a new, fresh look. An ‘old’ fresh look.”

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Information from: The Daily Nonpareil, https://www.nonpareilonline.com

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