Hastings, NE -
Hastings businesses say it takes customers and each other to keep the “Open” sign on.
“The downtown is kind of a village into itself and it has a very strong support network, and we all have the same goal: to serve the community,” says Tammy Orthmann, owner of Bath Bliss Gifts.
That’s why Orthmann says she’s looking forward to the city’s plan to fix up the nearby City Auditorium and add on to it.
“I think it’s going to address a really big need in Hastings, and it’s going to have a huge impact on downtown Hastings,” she says.
City leaders feel that way too – and after securing a $750,000 grant through the state’s Civic and Community Center Financing Fund, plan for an updated auditorium is just the start.
The city wants to close part of Fourth Street to add a convention center on the south side of the auditorium, and use the rest of the current parking plaza for something else.
“Then we have developer group adding on to that to fill our city parking lot,” says Hastings Mayor Vern Powers. “Do we do a hotel-type project, do we do housing-type project? It’s going to be a very extensive proposal.”
Powers says a study found Hastings needs event space to accommodate 200 to 400 people, and after more study, it was felt that downtown could benefit greatly. He says several developers are working on proposals to submit right now, but he believes the meeting space alone will bring and keep more people downtown.
“We’re seeing a lot more building down here on the second floors right now, and we expect to see a lot more of that should this project get going,” he says.
Proposals are due June 6, then the mayor, economic development officials, and community members will meet as a committee and make a recommendation to the city council. The goal is to have a project chosen this summer.
“A lot of the funding is already there, we’re just going to see what the city can help with and what makes sense for helping our downtown,” says Powers.
The mayor says the City Auditorium gets rented about 150 days each year right now, and they hope the remodel drives that up to 250-270.
“We think a big development downtown will really inject life into our downtown, we have a lot of good things going on down here, and we think by adding people down here all the time we’ll have more restaurants and more entities down here for them to use,” says Powers.