Iowa State Savings Bank CEO and Chairman Karl W. Knock announced this morning that Iowa State Savings Bank is prepared to donate $50,000 to be used for the development of public use spaces at the former Lincoln School site.
The specific purpose of the money will be to develop a community park in the playground fronting Adams Street.
Funds could also be used for development of additional parking at the former school site for the park and the relocated public library if the plan to relocate the community’s public library to the former school building goes forward and additional parking is needed.
Knock is scheduled to meet with the Creston city council’s finance committee tonight and with the Library Board in a work session.
Knock said that bank management decided to make this opportunity available to the city at this time because the city council is faced with a difficult decision about what to do with the former school site and has little time to decide between two different uses for the property.
“We think this is an important issue for Creston’s future and wanted to help the council make the better choice between competing community development ideas,” Knock said on behalf of the bank’s management team.
The library board and supporters plan to redevelop the former school into a library and culture center to house expanded educationally-based programming and activities to maintain and improve citizens’ opportunities for self-education and cultural well-being.
On Aug. 8 the city council set a public hearing for Aug. 19 to vote on a proposal to sell the former school property to Seldin Company for redevelopment into senior and low-to-moderate income housing.
The developer proposes to divide the former school building into 12 low-to-moderate income, and four market rate apartments for rent to seniors and to build 13 three-bedroom townhomes on the former school’s playground facing Adams Street.
Knock said Iowa State Savings Bank management sees both ideas as good, but thinks the townhomes should be built in a different location.
“As a local bank, we are very interested in development that improves the quality of life for citizens in the communities we serve. That includes good, safe housing for people at every income level, opportunities for employment at and above minimal living wages and cultural and recreational opportunities for all. Our communities’ housing stock is aging; new construction has to be part of the mix.”
Knock talked about community development and the how community development processes can work.
“Our communities need amenities to attract and retain people,” Knock said. “Through careful long-term planning and thoughtful expenditures the Creston area has modernized Greater Regional Medical Center into a very good critical access facility, built new K-12 schools, built the Arts and Wellness Center, helped SWCC build out the Creston campus, built a hiking and biking trails system, is renewing and updating McKinley and Rainbow Parks, has added housing developments and has maintained our status as a regional employment and retail center.
“On balance, we believe selling this public space that has been used for children’s recreation for over 80 years to a developer who wants to build and rent or sell housing should only be done after ample time has been allowed for residents and decision makers to consider and discuss values, impacts and alternatives.
“It is unfortunate that this idea came up so quickly as to afford the council a mere 12-days in which to hear from their constituents and make a watershed decision. With more time the developer, the city and UCDA may well have come up with a better plan that would not be so costly in terms of eliminating public open space.”
Knock said an expanded library and cultural center will not generate tax revenues for the city, but the library-cultural center-park project at the former school site might help that neighborhood and the whole town be more attractive to people who might consider moving to Creston to take jobs or to retire in Creston and that this will help sustain property values and civic vitality.
“We have to develop our community to be attractive to different kinds of people and to everyone in families,” Knock said. “Too often we might be attractive to a wage earner for a job opening here but not attractive to the person’s spouse or children, and that can diminish the pool of people willing to come here to fill open positions, or stay here to grow in their careers. Additionally, we can be more attractive as a community for our young people who might leave for a while to become educated or receive training and who we would love to have come back and make their lives and careers here, and to retirement age people who might choose to retire in Creston.”
Knock said that the Lincoln school site is important to him on a personal level.
“I grew up on the 800 block of West Adams Street until I was eight and then on Stone Street,” he said. “The Lincoln School playgrounds are where I learned how to swing in a swing set, use a teeter totter, climb monkey bars, and later to play baseball and football. We live in the neighborhood now and see children playing there throughout the year, and parents playing with their children there. I believe every neighborhood should have open spaces for children to play and for everyone to enjoy.”
Knock said people should let their city council representatives know what they think about the two proposals. He adds:
“Regardless of the outcome of this issue, we will still be neighbors living and working side by side tomorrow and the day after. People may be on different sides about this today and allied together in another cause tomorrow. That’s life in a small community.”