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The ENVISION 2010 Top 10 Ideas


Dubuque Telegraph Herald

April 16, 2006

[Note: This material is copyright by the Dubuque Telegraph Herald, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of the Dubuque Telegraph Herald.]

The Telegraph Herald is featuring each of the top 10 Envision 2010 ideas in a weekly Sunday series:

April 16 - America's River Phase II ["Building on Success"]

April 23 - Bilingual education ["Hola to the Future"]

April 30 - Community-wide wireless ["Dubuque Seeks Communitywide Internet Access"]

May 7 - Community health center ["Community Health Center Takes Place"]

May 14 - Indoor/outdoor performing arts center ["Group Rules Out Possibility of an Outdoor Facility"]

May 21 - Integrated walking/biking/hiking trail system ["Dubuque on Path to Extensive Trail System"]

May 28 - Library services expansion ["Library Books Expansion Plans"]

June 4 - Mental health and substance abuse services ["Group Aiming to Boost Care"]

June 11 - Passenger train service ["Envision Tries to Get Region All-Aboard"]

June 18 - Warehouse District revitalization ["New Life From Old Buildings"]

Building on Success

Mary Rae Bragg

Dubuque Telegraph Herald

April 16, 2006

How on earth will America's River Phase II go about measuring up to its namesake?

After all, it's hard to imagine a project in Dubuque's recent history that has had more of an impact than America's River. It changed the city's face, broadened the community's sense of pride and gave it a new identity.

A nationally recognized Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium, a sweeping river walk, hotel, an elegant convention center opening to a river panorama -- all of that was accomplished in a five-year blink-of-an-eye.

But the economic development spotlight is a fickle mistress and no sooner was the Fourth Street Peninsula greeting more than a quarter million visitors annually than someone asked, "What's next?"

The answer was: a vision, an idea, a concept, a dream. Out of such concepts came America's River Phase II.

That was the name given one portion of the 2,226 ideas that bubbled to the top of tri-state minds during Envision 2010, a six-month community brainstorming project designed to identify 10 ideas that will enrich the area's future.

The process gathered, compiled, vetted and presented the top ideas in January for the taking by whomever has the passion.

Lumped into America's River Phase II are ideas that have a familiar ring, and for good reason. Since the Port of Dubuque took on its new look, many of the ideas have frequently been discussed.

The concept says: "Expand the Mississippi River Museum campus with Rivers of America Museum, large screen theater, children's museum, science center, eco-tours, water taxis and river research center. Restore the Shot Tower, utilize the former Star Brewery, introduce canals and boardwalks with restaurants, shops and recreational activities."

In March, a dozen people gathered around a Phase II table and began discussing the future. Encouraged by one another, they began sharing additional dreams for Dubuque's river front.

Linda Herbst, a Lower Main Street business woman who served on the original Envision selection committee, said she would like also to see a railroad museum with interactive education and entertainment facets. She also thought there was merit to a suggestion that wasn't listed: a stairway up Horseshoe Bluff in the Mines of Spain.

Daniel Ernst, a member of Friends of the Mines of Spain said he came to the meeting specifically to encourage a link between the river museum and the Mines of Spain.

Later, Ernst said the museum would be the beneficiary of such an arrangement.

"What other museum has three miles of shoreline, including a tributary?" he asked, referring to the route Catfish Creek takes through Mines of Spain to the Mississippi River.

Meeting again on April 6, the group was joined by Jerry Enzler, the river museum's executive director, who updated them on plans for the museum's expansion into the former Adams Company site.

While most of the museum expansion proposals are already well past the idea stage, there remains a vital roll for the community to play in making that part of Phase II a reality, Enzler said.

"I think we have an opportunity to brainstorm or plan the remainder of the 4th Street Peninsula," Enzler said. "We're still at the front end, nothing is written in stone."

The impressive success of the Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium has given the city credibility when talking with government and private funding providers about future plans, Enzler said, but there needs to be more.

"Every state and federal office we go to says they are listening," Enzler said. "But they also say it has to be something the locals want and are willing to support with time and money."

The funding formula that allowed Phase I to go from a $25 million idea to $188 million reality included a healthy amount of corporate support, with a $40 million infusion of Vision Iowa money and federal funding. But key to all that was the amazing degree of local support, both private and public, Enzler said.

The money is not yet there to fulfill the Phase II dream, he said. That is why it is so important to raise public awareness about what the dream is.

The expansion will mean doubling the size of Iowa's largest museum to address the entire nation's water system, developing a national research center, adding a large format theater and a children's museum, among other things.

"We're hoping people will come to us with comments, ideas and encouragement." Enzler said.

Once Herbst's selection committee work was done, she decided to put her efforts into America's River Phase II because, she said, she's convinced that it "needs to happen." And she appreciates the value of public input.

"The more you talk about it, the more you get ideas to pop into your mind," Herbst said. "The more people, the richer every idea becomes."

Walt Webster, co-owner of Dubuque River Rides, located on the Ice Harbor down shore from the river museum, said he was drawn to the Phase II group because he wanted to see how his business might be able to help.

"You never know where the great idea is going to come from next," Webster said.

"We're convinced that we are on the side of the angels," Enzler said, "celebrating the Mississippi River."