By the end of 2019, a new multi-purpose arena is set to open up in Mason City.
Officials from city hall are working with Gatehouse Development to iron out details of a deal that would put a proposed hotel and conference center across from The Music Man Square and connect them with a skywalk. While a firm date for construction isn't set, the goal is to get into the ground before winter comes.
Those are the firmer, more tangible components of the long-promised River City Renaissance project that officials can project on. What's less known, at this point, is what it will mean for downtown Mason City.
But there are some likely projections.
According to North Iowa Corridor Economic Development Corporation President Chad Schreck: The primary economic activity that would stem from the RCR project would be retail, entertainment, recreation, and housing opportunities centered in the downtown area.
Theoretically, the various working components of the RCR project would attract people to downtown Mason City and, the thinking is, retail follows the people.
"The mall has already seen a significant uptick in interested parties looking at space there since construction began on the arena," Schreck said. "I would expect once the hotel work begins we will see that increase again."
As far as housing opportunities, Schreck points to the 133 unit apartment and town home project with Talon Development that should be breaking ground in June.
"While the RCR project is not generally a direct driver of the industrial or large commercial projects we typically pursue at the Corridor, it has definitely gotten attention from the companies we are working with," Schreck indicated.
"Businesses are looking for communities that are attractive place to live, so they can access strong talent pools."
Schreck thinks that the RCR project works as a sort of indicator to local and prospective companies that the area is taking steps to make things happen.
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And Lindsey James, the executive director of Visit Mason City, would argue that that sense of things happening is bringing in more visitors to Mason City as well.
"Every element of the River City Renaissance Project complements Visit Mason City’s mission and the work we do to attract, retain, and grow visitor spending here in River City," James said.
In particular, James pointed toward the promise of the downtown hotel and conference center as a potential magnet for visitors.
Per James: Visit Mason City has worked with the City throughout the past decade to develop a full-service conference space with capacity to accommodate 500 or more people.
Earlier in the decade, Mason City did have a conference space and hotel that could allow for that number of people but it's since shifted priorities.
Visit Mason City has purportedly tracked some $6 million in lost visitor spending from events because the city doesn't have adequate facilities for such events.
Between 2014 and 2015, estimated visitor spending from meeting and convention events booked and serviced by Visit Mason City went from $3.8 million to $1.9 million and then it dipped further to $1.2 million the following year.
However James said that Visit Mason City is working to flip that.
Once the hotel and conference center come into sharper relief, the organization will start surveying the meeting and convention prospects in its database and prepare bids and proposals for them to host their events in Mason City.
"Visit Mason City currently has a waiting list of customers who have expressed interest in hosting their events here," James stated.
"They are patiently waiting for the downtown hotel and conference center to be built."