75% of Mason City says Yes to River City Renaissance project

MASON CITY — Mason City voters Tuesday overwhelmingly passed two public measures to allow a $39 million downtown redevelopment project to move forward.

The River City Renaissance ballot items both received 75-percent voter approval, easily surpassing the 60-percent needed.

One item approved a lease agreement to construct an ice arena/multi-purpose center at Southbridge Mall. The other dealt with urban renewal bonds to help with the construction of a performing arts pavilion on the north side of the mall, the construction of a hotel in the southeastern part of the main Southbridge Mall parking lot, a new Meredith Willson Museum, a skywalk connecting the hotel to Music Man Square, and the repurposing of Music Man Square into a convention center.

Loni Dirksen of the “Mason City Says Yes” committee says she could sense the community unity for the project in the final weeks of the campaign. She says, “There were people from all sides of the fence that were in support of the project. To see that we won by 75-to-76 percent really shows that Mason City is ready to move forward, and grow and prosper.”

Typically detractors of a project file a petition to place a bond issue on the ballot, but “Mason City Says Yes” took the unusual approach of getting it on the ballot in an effort to show community support for the project. Dirksen says that decision paid off on Tuesday. She says, “We wanted to give everybody in the community a chance to vote on this important issue, and all of them that came out to vote today had their voices heard. The city of Mason City is definitely listening. We know that we all want to move forward now.”

Funding for the project will be assisted by an award from the Iowa Economic Development Authority through the Iowa Reinvestment Act. The IEDA’s Board of Directors has pre-approved $7 million in tax breaks for the project. That could jump up to $10 million on final approval, which is anticipated at the board’s December meeting.

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