Hastings' Mayor Vern Powers on his city's downtown district: "I think everything is down there that they need."
Indeed, Hastings already has several of the elements necessary to create a vibrant, revitalized downtown, and city officials say their next step is to lay out a comprehensive, long term development plan.
City leaders came one step closer to their goals for downtown on Thursday when Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy visited Hastings to announce the awarding of a $30,000 Nebraska Community Development Block Grant to the city to help pay for the cost of writing a plan that could pave the way for much larger grants from the state.
Vern Powers: "It's basically a study grant to provide architects, drawings, engineering, planning and zoning kind of information, for when we prepare for the next set of grants that come along later in the process. There's a $350,000 grant process that happens after this, and that's what we're going to pursue."
Some of the offerings currently attracting shoppers to downtown Hastings include unique gifts and food that you just can't get at the mall. For example, freshly baked bread and caramel cake.
So, what is the grant-funded study likely to pinpoint as necessary to "rev up" Hastings' downtown?
Mayor Vern Powers: "We have a shortage of covered parking."
And what questions will the study need to answer?
Mayor Vern Powers: "Which buildings would be amenable to further apartments upstairs? Which buildings would be better for commercial? Which buildings should be redeveloped? Which buildings should be knocked down, or just not thought about?"
The grant funds will pay for answers, and perhaps open the door to more state dollars for downtown Hastings.
WineStyles wine store and cafe owner Jamey Hamburger: "People wanting a vibrant downtown, like Lincoln, like Omaha; it's something these little cities can do. We've got the historic buildings and beautiful sights. Let's put some businesses in there, and everyone comes out ahead."