Avoca named a 2012 All-Star Community


October 1st, 2012 by Ric Hanson

The Iowa League of Cities has recognized the city of Avoca as a 2012 All-Star Community. The recognition came at the ILC’s Annual Conference & Exhibit, which was held in Sioux City from September 26-28th. The All-Star Community Award is the most prestigious honor given by the League to cities.

Photo of the Avoca group with their award (Courtesy Iowa League of Cities)

Entries are judged by a panel of former city officials and others familiar with municipal government. Judges determine winners based on innovative efforts in areas such as urban renewal, development, preservation, service sharing or quality of life improvements. This year, Avoca was one of five of Iowa’s 947 cities to garner such recognition for their Restoring Avoca Project.

During a visioning exercise, leaders in the city of Avoca realized they were stuck in the “good enough rut.”  As former council member David McCain put it, “maintaining a city is an ongoing project.” When the city decided to start enforcing nuisance codes, many residents were resistant. The All-Star judges panel recognized that the community took a big risk, and endured lots of criticism from unsettled citizens. Yet community leaders believed in their vision to restore Avoca and moved forward.

Taking advantage of the need to update an underground water main, the city’s downtown underwent a face-lift along with infrastructure improvements. During the Elm Street renovation, downtown business owners had the opportunity to partner with the city to update their storefronts, restoring the main business district and sharing costs.

Residents also had the opportunity to cost-share with the city and update their deteriorating sidewalks. The initiative, which helped to replace more than 40 percent of the city’s sidewalks, allowed homeowners to opt-in. The city paid for the materials for the walkways while the property-owner paid for labor, with the option to spread the payment over seven-years. Restoring Avoca includes many projects and has created a huge physical transformation. Leaders in Avoca have noticed that as the aesthetics improve, pride in Avoca is also being restored.

This year’s other All-Star Community Award winners were Charles City, Manchester, Mason City and North Liberty.