People who haven't been in Fort Dodge for awhile may notice some significant changes the first time they cruise down the Fifth Avenue South corridor.
Mayor Matt Bemrich has spoken to a few people who have had that very experience.
''When I talk to them, they're saying 'Wow, it really looks fantastic,''' he said.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
A sign advertising the Holiday Inn Express and Suite projects faces Fifth Avenue South at 31st Street. The hotel will have 85 rooms and employ about 30 people.
The eye-opening changes stem from the debut of several new businesses, including a Kohl's store, and the $5.7 million the city has invested in infrastructure along Fifth Avenue South and Kenyon Road since 2007.
There's more development coming.
A Holiday Inn Express and Suites is planned for the intersection of Fifth Avenue South and 31st Street. Also, property near Fifth Avenue South and 21st Street will be the site of a CVS/pharmacy expected to open in 2014.
Bemrich said there's a chance for even more growth.
''There has been a lot of inquiries, but until we see them coming in with site plans or making real estate transactions, it's all speculative,'' he said. ''But we do have a lot of people calling.''
A project, called the Corridor of Commerce, launched by the City Council and former Mayor Terry Lutz in 2007 is driving the growth along Fifth Avenue South.
The city's investment has included widening Fifth Avenue South between 21st and 31st streets to create a center turning lane. New streetlights were put up, new sidewalks were created and pedestrian plazas were established at the intersections.
Overhead electrical lines were moved underground.
Commercial development soon followed the infrastructure investments. In 2011, the Kohl's store and a Taco John's restaurant opened near Fifth Avenue South and 30th Street.
In 2012, Aspen Dental opened near Fifth Avenue South and 30th Street, Perkins Restaurant and Bakery debuted near Fifth Avenue South and 32nd Street; and a Maid-Rite restaurant offering loose-meat sandwiches opened at 2223 Fifth Ave. S.
The Holiday Inn Express and Suites project was announced in March 2012 and early this year signs promoting it went up at the site. The hotel will have 85 rooms and employ30 people.
It will be built and owned by Fort Dodge Lodging Group, which is a part of Lamont Companies of Aberdeen, S.D.
''We like the visibility there,'' said Jeff Lamont, the president and chief executive officer of Lamont Companies. ''We like the location there, close to all the restaurants.''
''It seems like there's a lot going on in Fort Dodge as far as economic development,'' he added.
Plans for the CVS/pharmacy were revealed in December.
The proposal calls for a 13,225-square-foot store on Fifth Avenue South between 20th and 21st streets.
''We're in the very early planning stages of a store we hope to open in 2014,'' said Mike DeAngelis, the company's director of public relations. ''We look forward to working with town officials and the community on receiving the necessary approvals for our store and we look forward to serving the pharmacy needs of the Fort Dodge community.''
He said the company chose the location because it's at a highly visible corner that would provide easy accessibility for customers.
The former Sun Market and Deli II and a building that most recently housed Tequila's, a Mexican restaurant, will be demolished to make room for the store. Two vacant houses on the east side of 20th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues south will also be leveled.
CVS/pharmacy is a national chain based in Rhode Island.
There will be some infrastructure work along Fifth Avenue South this year. City Engineer Chad Schaeffer said contractors will complete the pedestrian plazas at the road's intersections with 29th and 31st streets. Some landscaping will also be done, he added.
There is also the potential for a larger project that would reshape Fifth Avenue South east of the Menards store at 3319 Fifth Ave. S. A $500,000 state grant announced in November would help pay for the work.
Now, there are four lanes of traffic east of the store. The project would reduce that to two lanes and create a center turning lane.
The project would also include installing permanent traffic lights at the eastern driveway to Menard's. The lights that are there now were put up five years ago and were intended to be in place just one year.
The grant-funded project would also create a right turn lane at the store's western driveway. That lane would provide a way for eastbound vehicles to slow down and turn into the store without getting struck from behind.
However, it is not yet certain that the project will be done this year. Schaeffer said it is ''still pending with the DOT.''