Washington Evening Journal
http://washington-ia.villagesoup.com/p/1055130

Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 16, 2014

Five years young

By David Hotle | Sep 12, 2013
Main Street Washington president Karen Kuhlman (left) and director Sarah Sadrakula show a cake with the Main Street logo that was part of the five-year celebration held Tuesday evening in Central Park.

Even while celebrating the fifth birthday of Main Street Washington, director Sarah Sadrakula was turning an eye to the future and planning what the economic development group would be doing in the future.
Even though Sadrakula only signed on about a year ago, she said that the program is “going great.” She cited that since the group’s formation in 2008, there have been 23 new businesses in the downtown area. She also said that there has been a net gain of 28 jobs, 45 buildings have been rehabilitated or renovated, and $1,746,719 has been spent for rehabilitation. She also said that 30 buildings in Main Street Washington’s district have been sold.
“I think we are in a good place,” she said. “Our five-year anniversary really allowed us to look back at what we had accomplished, evaluate things that weren’t going as well as we had hoped they would, and see where we are going in the future.”
She said that there had been some growing pains over the last five years, but the council had worked hard to make strengths out of any weaknesses. She also said that there were 13,692 volunteer hours logged for a dollar value of $235,776.
A market analysis project has recently been completed, Sadrakula said. She expects the results to be released to the public in the next few weeks. She predicts it will be a great tool to see where the city is thriving and where the gaps are.
During the party in Central Park, Sadrakula said that she learned quite a bit from the people who have been members since the beginning. Previously she had spoken with people who had helped form the group. Sadrakula even keeps a copy of the original application submitted to the state for membership in the Main Street program. Many copies were destroyed when the former Chamber of Commerce building burned to the ground, so the original applications are somewhat rare.
“I’ve been here a year now and I have been told a lot of stories about the trips to other communities and the fact-finding trips,” Sadrakula said. “I’ve been here long enough that we have become that community. We are the community that Main Street says to other communities, ‘If you want to be a Main Street community, go to Washington and see what they are doing.’”
During the event, speakers Patty Stutzman and Suzanne Ackermann spoke about the community effort that was needed to form and sustain Main Street Washington. The speakers also spoke warmly of deceased Main Street members Margaret Wolf and Mary Ann Drain.  
Sadrakula said that a new Washington Incentive Fund program would begin soon. The program provides low-interest loans to businesses to renovate the front of the buildings.
“I think the next five years for us will be a continued evolution of the program,” Sadrakula said. “We’ve had five successful years.”

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