A lot has changed in Davenport's Hilltop Campus Village in the past decade.
Businesses have opened and expanded. Residents have beautified the region and planted community gardens. Vacant buildings have been transformed into apartments and single-family housing units.
But when asked about the Hilltop's greatest accomplishments since it was designated as a Main Street Iowa district in 2009, many community leaders came up with the same answer: The neighborhood now has a sense of identity.
At the Hilltop's annual meeting Thursday morning, Terry Buschkamp, with Main Street Iowa, instructed board members and business owners to post the area's achievements on the wall. The orange note cards read "establishing an identity," "visual brand," "presence," "destination" and "positivity."
"I can remember coming here one of the first times ... driving into town, and me thinking, 'what have we gotten ourselves into?'" Buschkamp said, adding she had heard negative comments and safety concerns about the neighborhood in the past. "Now we see this vibrant, wonderful district we see today. I could not be more proud."
Hilltop Director Scott Tunnicliff said Buschkamp helped guide stakeholders through the process of earning a Main Street Iowa designation 10 years ago. On Thursday, she returned to the neighborhood — which includes St. Ambrose University and Palmer College of Chiropractic — to help a room full of business and community leaders plan for the next decade.
The group celebrated the past year's accomplishments, which included several projects to help boost the Hilltop's identity. Board members have added more signs to inform commuters of when they're in the district — including a large welcome sign on 5th and Brady streets.
The Hilltop also has added more streetlights to help with public safety, and plans to add more this coming year. Beautification efforts have continued, as the Hilltop opened a new community garden with a hoop house this spring. And, for the first time this past year, the Hilltop participated in Iowa Restaurant Week.
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Board member Kelly Young highlighted at least eight businesses that opened in the past year, from D'Haute Beauty Bar to Shumaker Guitar Works and restaurant Mex-2-Go.
"We've seen a mix of housing, retail, restaurants and commercial redevelopment," Young said, pointing to at least six renovated buildings in the area. "We're really excited for what the next 10 years will bring."
In addition, Ty Grunder, with St. Ambrose University, celebrated the college's projects, including the opening of its wellness center and ongoing construction of a new home for its college of business.
John Border, with Davenport Community Schools, boasted the redevelopment of the J.B. Young Opportunity Center nearly three years ago. He highlighted the launch of culinary program ProStart. And, he announced the organization PUNCH, or People United Neighbors and Churches, will move into the center this year.
He also said roughly half of J.B. Young's recreational area will be converted into additional parking spaces.
After looking back on the past year, as well as the past decade, Buschkamp directed the Hilltop stakeholders to envision the next 10 years. Once again, community leaders posted their thoughts on the wall, sharing ideas for what would make the Hilltop a better place to live and open a business.
On purple note cards, Hilltop members said they'd like to see improved parking, more crosswalks and bike lanes, the addition of "destination businesses," the development of more single-family homes and the conversion of one-way streets into two-ways.
Tunnicliff helped energize the group in planning for the future. He also recognized 40-year-old grocery store Greatest Grains, which announced this week it will close.
Largely, though, the Hilltop members talked about ways to continue creating a brand and identity for the Davenport neighborhood.
"I grew up on the Hilltop. I'm 55 years old, so I've been here a while, and have friends who grew up on the Hilltop," Border said. "There has always been a love for the neighborhood, even when it wasn't so safe ... But those people now in their older years, and even kids I saw at J.B. Young when I was a member of staff, are reinvesting because of a love they have for it."