The history and development of the City of Ottumwa is inextricably linked to the Des Moines River. The river, as a means of transportation, drinking water and power generation, influenced and shaped the early development of the town. Currently though, daily life for residents is largely disconnected from the river. Downtown is separated from the river by a very active rail line, undeveloped properties and parking lots, and the levee system. Although the current layout presents challenges, we remain drawn to the river. The riverfront holds the potential to drive the revitalization of the city through economic development, tourism and an increased tax base while simultaneously providing opportunities for people to congregate, recreate and conduct and enjoy life. This site outlines the efforts of the many citizens and organizations that have joined together to maximize this underutilized asset for the benefit of the entire community.
The Riverfront Development consists of 4 exciting projects – Modern Housing, Electric Park, Transit Oriented District, and Intermodal Hub – all designed in tandem to create a destination area that promotes economic development and a cultivates a thriving community.
In 2019, a concerted effort was undertaken to narrow the riverfront revitalization project scope to focus primarily downtown on the north side of the Des Moines River. Vandewalle & Associates, an architectural and planning firm from Madison, Wisconsin, was engaged to assist with the vision, redevelopment plan, economic positioning and marketing of the downtown’s riverfront and adjacent properties. (Learn more about Vandewalle & Associates at their site.) The culmination of Vandewalle’s analysis resulted in a report highlighting top opportunities for development along the river. To support this work, a Riverfront Steering Committee and multiple implementation teams were established to advise and assist in the development. A main goal of this work is the submission of a BUILD (Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development) grant in 2020 to help finance the project.