Jennifer Pruden long has had an interest in design and in historic preservation.
She studied interior design and business at the University of Northern Iowa before getting her master’s degree in historic preservation from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
For four years she operated her own design and restoration business while in Wisconsin. So today, as executive director of the Czech Village New Bohemia Main Street District, she’s found a way to fulfill both interests on a daily basis.
“With my background, I’ve always wanted to get involved with the Main Street program,” she said. “The design part of it, the business part of it, the historic preservation part of it … it kind of all fits. I had prepared for this.”
The Czech Village New Bohemia Main Street District — which includes the distinct neighborhoods bordering the Cedar River — first received its designation from the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2009. It is one of 48 Main Street communities in the state of Iowa, but only one of three considered urban centers.
Pruden, a Davenport native who wanted to move back to Iowa to be closer to family, came on board last April and has worked to further the four-point system on which the Main Street program operates — design, economic restructuring, organization and promotion.
“Main Street is all about economic development with an historic preservation focus,” Pruden said. “We want to preserve the culture and architecture, but we are also promoting this as a tourist attraction and destination for residents.”
As the only paid staff member, every day is different for Pruden.
“I try to make rounds meeting with the business owners in the district so we can try to promote their events and specials on our website or via social media,” she said. “I also meet with developers and property owners to talk about rehabbing spaces or building new.
“I often do walk-throughs with property owners to talk about how to restore buildings and what tax incentives might be available to help them with that. We have a resource library in our office with information on grants and economic incentives.”
Pruden’s work also involves meeting regularly with city, county and state representatives to champion what the district is doing, as well as with a variety of stakeholders.
“There are those who are so passionate about what they do that they opened a small business to share what they love with the community; and the property owners and developers who see potential in this area and want to invest in it; and the people who live here and call this neighborhood home because of its unique sense of place,” she said.
The district is developing a revitalization strategy, for example, to help them focus on future initiatives. They are especially seeking public input, including at an open house this Saturday at CSPS.
“It’s an open forum for people to stop by and give us their ideas and see what we’ve been working on,” she said. “… There is a lot of good energy and interest in the district right now and we just want to make sure it’s good for the community and a good fit for this neighborhood.”
Name: Jennifer Pruden
Title: Executive director
Company: Czech Village New Bohemia Main Street District
Address: 101 16th Ave. SW, Suite A, Cedar Rapids
Phone: (319) 432-9785
A open house/public forum on the district’s revitalization strategy will be held 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, at CSPS, 1103 Third St. SE.
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