Recap of the District Meet Up August 19th 2019: 

Michael Wagler, the Main Street Iowa State Coordinator, was our guest speaker. The Main Street Iowa Program is under the Iowa Economic Development Authority. He has worked with the Main Street Iowa team in different capacities since 2002. Prior to becoming the Coordinator in 2012, he served as a Main Street Design Specialist providing comprehensive planning, historic preservation, and design services to Iowa’s downtowns and Main Street programs. Michael began his Main Street journey in 1996 by investing his time and talents with his hometown Main Street program, Bloomfield, Iowa. He has also worked in a consulting role in states throughout the nation including; Oregon, New Mexico, and Wisconsin. He earned a B.F.A. in Historic Preservation and Architectural History from the Savannah College of Art & Design in Savannah, Georgia. Michael earned his Master’s degree in Community & Regional Planning from Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. – 25 years in Main Street Network

Michael spoke about Main Street as a process, and gave background on why he has been involved in the Main Street process for over 25 years. 

Following the Main Street America Transformation Strategies, this gives each community the framework to complete individualized goals. This process starts with community visioning, followed by targeted strategies, and ends with quantitative/qualitative outcomes. While community goals may be achieved; new goals, opportunities, and challenges always present themselves which make this a circular process that repeats every 3-5 years.

Currently there are 55 designated Main Street Iowa Programs across the State of Iowa. The Main Street Iowa Network includes communities under 1000 like Clarence, and Lansing; to urban districts such as  Des Moines, Ames, and Dubuque.

The Main Street Approach is 30+ years old, in Iowa the program is under the Iowa Economic Development Authority. Nationally Main Street America is a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, with a network of over 2,000 Main Street communities across the country.



Michael shared a Case Story with us from Ottumwa, Iowa.

Better Block Ottumwa – was a project that was a temporary placemaking project that was implemented October of 2017. This was a one day effort to show the community of Ottumwa  what there downtown could be like again:

Durring this Placemaking effort, an entire section of down town was activated. Pop Up Shops, local art, temporary playground, outdoor amphitheater and more were setup for a weekend to show Ottumwa what their downtown could look forward to. This impact spread throughout the state of Iowa, through Main State Volunteers from each of the 50+ communities. These volunteers learned how to transform a temporary impact into long term activated space. 

After the Better Block weekend, the community saw what was possible. A bagel shop that set up a temporary pop-up for the Better Block project saw the demand for bagels/breakfast places in the community increase – and opened a small shop on that block. Outdoor dining, a first for Ottumwa was added outside a local restaurant. Developers were more interested in purchasing and activating the inexpensive rundown downtown buildings, and bringing them back to life. Businesses has started moving from the outskirts of town to the downtown area. A street scape project has begun that was talked about for years after seeing some of the Better Block visioning. 

For more information about this project, read the following article featured in the State of Main – Activating the Main Street Approach through Placemaking – article by Michael Wagler



Main Street Iowa offers many Program Services to designated Main Street Iowa Communities. Michael touched on a few of the programs offered:

Technical Assistance Partner – 

    Design Specialist – facade renderings

    Business Services – Support Service, Market Information, Visual Merchandising

Accountability Partner – What are the barriers to set goals? challenges? Main Street Iowa Monthly reports, National Main Street Accreditation

Development Partner – works with developers, cities across the state

Marketing Partner – channel of information to Travel Iowa, economic impact, tourism partnership, blog posts

Financial Partner – Open 4 Business, Main Street Challenge Grant

To contact Michael for more information about the Main Street Iowa Program: