Revitalized Downtown

Revitalizing downtown is key to the city achieving the project’s vision. A revitalized downtown will:

  • Increase the local tax base.
  • Enhance and expand a vital community amenity.
  • Preserve the community’s historic heritage, character, and way of life.

“Participants told us repeatedly that they want downtown to remain at the heart of the local economy and community culture 20 years from now,” Tom Phillips, project consultant, said.

“To do so, Newton must extend beyond the traditional focus of retail goods and services to include places for relaxation, entertainment, and housing. Then the downtown will maintain what makes it special today, but be infused with new life.”

Planned Enhancements

The ReNewton Project reinforces the vision of the 2009 Master Plan for Newton Downtown Redevelopment District. This vision preserves core historic buildings, allowing for strategic new development of mixed uses and housing. It also strengthens the area’s visual character with improvements in walkability, streetscapes, parking, and green spaces.

Ideas in the 2009 plan for enhancing downtown include capitalizing on the Historic Fox Theatre, adding a downtown farmers market, creating housing on upper floors of commercial properties, incorporating more green spaces and parking, and adding free wireless Internet throughout the area.  

Launching Local Business

The committee also introduced the idea of creating a business incubator district downtown to help launch homegrown businesses — retail, dining, entertainment, IT, small manufacturing, and professional services.

The business incubator program would provide space for young, local businesses to get off the ground, while receiving short-term assistance through subsidized rent, marketing, human resources, financial management, product development, and so forth. Ideas for funding include possible partnerships with Bethel College, City Hall, the Community Development Corporation, and the private sector.

The Go-To District

Ultimately, the new downtown district would become THE place for people to congregate in Newton — similar to Oldtown in Wichita, Mass Street in Lawrence, Boot Hill in Dodge City, or Aggieville in Manhattan.

Insights

“What we're trying to bring to downtown is people. Having wireless Internet as a staple of infrastructure helps not only the consumers and their entertainment value, but helps business owners who choose to locate business downtown become players in the global marketplace, and not just the local marketplace.”
— Lester Limon, planning commission chairman

“With a vibrant downtown, your community grows,” said Newton Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Jennifer Mueller. “It is your blueprint. It is who you are. It IS your community.”
— Jennifer Mueller, convention and visitors bureau director

“Having prime downtown space available to new businesses would be a great boon to the City’s economic development efforts. It would help us attract novice talent to the area that could pay off big in the future.”
— Jim Schwarzenberger, executive director of the Newton Area Chamber of Commerce