MASON CITY | Downtown Mason City has been designated one of 10 Great Neighborhoods for 2013, the American Planning Association announced.
It was designated under the organization’s Great Places in America program, according to a news release. APA Great Places exemplify exceptional character and highlight the role planning and planners play in adding value to communities, including fostering economic growth and jobs.
Downtown Mason City was singled out for its claim to the only remaining Frank Lloyd Wright hotel, its Prairie School-inspired architecture and streetscape, grassroots preservation efforts and 70 years of planning and revitalization.
The neighborhood, which includes late 19th- and early 20th-century commercial architecture, “resonates with the clean lines and character of Wright’s vision,” the APA said.
Mason City Mayor Eric Bookmeyer said Mason Cityans are justifiably proud of the downtown.
“It was not too long ago that some felt that downtown was too far gone and was not worth the trouble, but our community would not let that happen,” he said.
“The sights, events and experiences that downtown Mason City provides make the downtown neighborhood a great place to shop, live, work and play.”
APA Chief Executive Officer Paul Farmer said downtown Mason City “is testament to the enormous influence active and engaged residents can exert on places they care about.”
“Their four decades of research, planning and fundraising restored the jewel of their downtown, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Historic Park Inn Hotel.”
Part of a National Register historic district, downtown Mason City relies on form-based zoning to guide development and improvements.
Tax increment financing and tax credits support building renovations, energy-efficient upgrades and creation of upper-story dwelling units.
A $3.6 million streetscape and plaza redevelopment program, completed last year, extends the Prairie School architectural theme of the Historic Park Inn Hotel throughout downtown and ties together the north and south ends of the neighborhood.
The hotel had been on the Iowa Historic Preservation Alliance’s list of Most Endangered Properties, which led residents to establish Wright on the Park Inc. in 2005 and purchase the hotel from the city for $1.
Residents undertook an $18 million restoration by leveraging private donations and using historic tax credits.
Last year, 23,500 people toured or attended a meeting at the hotel, funneling more than $5 million into the local economy, the APA estimated.
The nine other APA 2013 Great Neighborhoods are Chinatown, San Francisco, Calif.; Downtown Norwich, Conn.; Downtown Decatur, Ga.; Central Street Neighborhood, Evanston, Ill.; Historic Licking Riverside Neighborhood, Covington, Ky.; Kenwood, Minneapolis, Minn.; Beaufort Historic District, Beaufort, S.C.; West Freemason, Norfolk, Va.; and Williamson-Marquette Neighborhood, Madison, Wis.
For further information, as well as winners in previous years, visit www.planning.org/greatplaces.