Small Business Administration officials say Manning’s revitalized downtown, a project that is now being nationally recognized, is an inspiration to other small communities in Iowa.
Small Business Administration officials say Manning’s revitalized downtown, a project that is now being nationally recognized, is an inspiration to other small communities in Iowa.

February 18, 2016

This week, a Carroll County preservation project is being nationally recognized.

Manning’s historic revitalization of 17 downtown building facades is being recognized by the National Park Service in a year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act.

“The (act) is a cornerstone of American historic preservation,” the National Park Service website states. “It was created in the belief that too many important historic places were being lost to post-World War II development and construction, and that the federal government could (and should) play an important role in protecting places that embody the United States’ cultural heritage.”

The National Park Service has selected a preservation effort to highlight each week — one in each state. The weekly highlights are being featured through a social media campaign, #50for50.

“Features may focus on a particular city with a strong preservation ethic, a Tribe that is associated with a significant place within the state, or a bricks-and-mortar project that saved a building, structure, or object,” the National Park Service website states. “Basically, it could be anything.”

Manning’s downtown revitalization is Iowa’s chosen project and is being recognized this week. The announcement was a surprise to Manning city and economic development officials, said Ron Reischl, Main Street Manning board president.

The project, which has resulted in 17 buildings being remodeled and preserved so far, has been long in the making. The city pledged about eight years ago to undo some of the remodeling of its downtown buildings that had started in the ’70s, returning the city’s Main Street to its historic appearance, according to the State Historic Preservation Office of Iowa.

The city became a Main Street community in 2009 and began seriously looking at restoring Manning’s downtown. The Manning Commercial Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and with a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant Downtown Revitalization Grant, supplemented with locally raised money, the city set about rehabilitating 17 downtown building facades.

“Manning is committed to our future by celebrating our past,” Reischl said. “The downtown revitalization spurred numerous building owners to renovate their interiors.”

Deb’s Corner Café, in particular, was drastically renovated after additional needed repairs were discovered.

“The front of that building was literally ready to fall down,” Reischl said. “We probably wouldn’t have a Deb’s Corner Café today.”

The project has spurred additional economic development in Manning, Reischl said, including the opening of The Market Place, a coffee shop and store owned by Manning alumna Jaime England.

A Manning office of Carroll law firm Eich, Van Dyke, Werden & Steger has also opened downtown, as well as One More Rep Fitness.

A fourth new business, BrickHaus Brews, is set to open in March.

“Happily, Manning has few empty storefronts today, and it seems that downtown is once again a place that those original German settlers would truly recognize,” wrote Paula Mohr, an architectural historian with the State Historic Preservation Office of Iowa.

Outside of downtown, the city also has seen additional development with the new Dollar General, Char-Mac Assisted Living and the plans for a Boulders Inn and Suites.

All of the preservation and revitalization work done in Manning was approved by the State Historic Preservation Office of Iowa, Reischl said.

“Manning has been bit by the preservation bug,” said preservation architect Pete Franks, who worked on the revitalization project, according to the State Historic Preservation Office of Iowa.

Although Manning and this project have received extensive statewide recognition, this is the first national nod for the city’s economic development work, Reischl said.

“It’s great to be recognized at a national level,” he said. “It brings visibility to our downtown and our German Hausbarn and encourages visits to Manning.”