Down The Road: Sheldon Community Development

It's time to go "Down The Road" again as Siouxland News continues its coverage of some of the area's favorite summer events and the communities that host them.Wednesday through Friday we'll be going down the road to Sheldon, Iowa which will host the annual Risefest Christian musical festival Friday and Saturday. You'll hear more about that later this week.But first, like small communities that faced tough times when the railroad stopped running through them, a few years ago Sheldon faced a similar situation when heavily traveled Highway 60 was moved from the westside of the downtown to the far east side of community.It created adversity for some, opportunity for others. And the community has embraced the change head on.It was once the main drag through town, bringing traffic and business to downtown Sheldon. But in 2006 a 10-mile bypass of a new four-lane highway 60 opened on the far east side of the community, miles from the downtown.So, more than a year ago the city started a downtown renovation project that's added new streets and sidewalks, new, more decorative lighting, planters that will add a dash of color and what are called "bumpouts", sections of the sidewalk that slow down traffic for pedestrian safety. "So we took out a stop and go light that used to be at our main intersection and made it a four way stop. We included another four way stop. And the intention is to slow the drivers down, look at our stores, be aware of the traffic and walkers and really just get people to focus on what is happening in our downtown instead of passing through quickly," said Tricia Meendering, Mayor of Sheldon. The mayor adds the addition of new mini malls and other businesses on the east side of town are great, but the downtown is the heart and soul of Sheldon. "So what we are doing is trying to find the niches.... The specialty shops... or maybe some of the professional businesses. Anything that comes in to our historic buildings keeps them alive," said Meendering. And what Sheldon is doing seems to be working very well. "98 percent of our storefronts downtown are filled. We continually have businesses coming into town and in order for those businesses to thrive in this community we need to make sure that our downtown is welcoming," said Allison Cooke of the Sheldon Chamber of Commerce. The cross roads of the "new" highway 60 and a busy highway 18 have been a magnet for new development. And it's also spurred growth of a new residential development. With room for 57 new single family homes and four and a half acres for multi family complexes. There will even be a more than 40 acre park with trails, a pond, a shelter house and lots of green space. All of this is designed to fill the growing number of jobs in Sheldon. "But what comes along with that is we open up our internal housing here in Sheldon. It gives the availability for people to come in... find that starter home... find that affordable home they can come into... set their roots in Sheldon... get established in their job... start a family is our hope... and become part of our Sheldon culture," said Curt Strouth, Community Development Director.A nice downtown and plenty of housing and good jobs aren't the only things Sheldon is focusing on. The city, in cooperation with the community school district, is developing a new sports complex that's next to highway 18 and the high school. It will not only be used by the school, but for youth recreation programs as well. It'll have three baseball and softball fields, a soccer complex and space for football as well.It's just another important ingredient in trying to attract new residents to Sheldon. "They are going to see that we are very proactive on the recreation side which is a very important side as far as community health and community well being," said Strouth. It's hoped the new sports complex will be ready for action by next spring.