A downtown is often considered the heart and soul of a community regardless of its geographic size. Many times, the health of a community can be displayed in this urban district and assessed by visitors and local citizens. Like in all communities, a downtown has a life cycle that demands nurturing to maintain its vitality and appeal. When visiting other towns it's easy to acquire an appreciation for an attractive vibrant downtown and later wonder how its community has been able to accomplish such a feat. The property owners in downtown Fort Dodge have the same desires as many other major communities and are constantly evaluating the many options to try and deliver a more energetic and attractive downtown community. To accomplish the goal of enhancing our local downtown's vigor and appeal, a long-standing organization was formed, known as SSMID.
In 1982 the property owners of downtown Fort Dodge, along with the city of Fort Dodge, created a district called the Self Supported Municipal Improvement District or more commonly referred to as SSMID. This district, which encompasses roughly a 36-block area that is bordered by 13th Street and Third Street (East-West) and First Avenue North and Second Avenue South (North-South) was designated to assist in the growth, development and promotion of business within the district. In doing so the property owners adopted the creation of a pool of money that is funded through a self-imposed assessment to commercial property owners within the district (residential property owners are exempt from this assessment). These funds are then managed by a nine-person SSMID board comprised of property owners (or their designees) from within the district. The board members are: Patrick Leiting (chairman), Jim Bird (vice president), Steve Pederson (treasurer), Dennis Crimmins (secretary), John Daniel, Doyle Anderson, Nate Gibson, Cary Estlund and Rich Seltz.
Due to the board's desire to create a more "destination" oriented environment in the downtown the board agreed to participate in the funding of an innovative Downtown Plan, which highlights the development of an alternate East - West corridor through Fort Dodge by realigning First and Second Avenues South and creating an expansive green space in the district, as well as a focus on improved gateways into the Downtown District. In the past few months, we have also supported the creation of a Downtown Historic District(s), which will greatly assist potential developers in rehabilitating existing structures such as the recently renovated Bay Building, Citizens Central and Wahkonsa Manor.
Most recently, the board has participated in funding the creation of new Design Guidelines that are currently being developed. These guidelines will create a standard of what we would like our downtown to look like as projects are completed within the district. The implementation of these Design Guidelines will assist in creating a more favorable identity for the Downtown District.
Even though it's not in our district, the board has been very proactive in supporting the improvements on Fifth Avenue South. Not only is this a positive enhancement for Fort Dodge, but it will also benefit the downtown area by providing more appealing gateways into the district as is evident by the current renovations to the Eighth Street intersection.
While these projects are quite significant, SSMID also acts behind the scenes in its efforts to beautify the downtown area through flower baskets and holiday street decorations. In addition, the district assists in providing funds to support the annual Fall Fest, a tradition that brings residents and visitors directly to the downtown area.
The SSMID board firmly believes that we must assist in leading a positive change by supporting the implementation of the Downtown Plan and be proactive in ultimately creating an environment that is more aesthetically appealing and once again admired by residences and visitors alike.
Patrick Leiting is chairman of the SSMID board of directors.