Bob Lee may have retired from his role, as vice-chancellor of advancement at Palmer College, a year ago, but his active involvement in and concern for economic development in the Iowa Quad City region remains unabated.
Originally from Shenandoah, Iowa, Bob completed both undergraduate and Master of Business Administration degrees at the University of Iowa. Following service in the U.S. Army, during the Viet Nam War, he worked briefly in Chicago, but then made the career move to Palmer College where he served 19 years as vice-chancellor.
Today Bob continues his public service, as chairman of the board of directors of both the Downtown Davenport Partnership and the Hilltop Campus Village. He has been elected to the boards of the Quad City Chamber of Commerce, the Hilltop Business Association and the Illowa Council of the Boy Scout of America, and has also been a longtime Bettendorf resident.
The Downtown Davenport Partnership and the Hilltop Campus Village each have experienced significant success, redeveloping their urban business districts, under Bob’s leadership. Reflecting on the achievements of those two organization, he concluded an organized and structured approach to downtown revitalization could benefit Bettendorf too. He shared his thoughts with Steve VanDyke, Bettendorf’s Economic Director, who, in turn, brought the Main Street concept to the attention of the Bettendorf Business Network.
In particular, Bob has been impressed with the success attained by the Hilltop Campus Village through the Iowa Main Street program. Scott Tunicliff, Hilltop Campus program director, says this about Bob: “Bob knows that interaction with key groups, such as Main Street Iowa, is vital. He knows the new director at Main Street Iowa, James Engle, as well as many of the key staff persons there. This makes a big difference.”
The Iowa Main Street program grew out of The Main Street Four Point Approach developed in 1977 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street Center. Today fifty-two Iowa communities participate in that program.
Main Street Iowa provides a comprehensive and integrated strategy for commercial district revitalization using four key facets. Those facets are organization, economic restructuring, design and promotion. Communities, hoping to participate in the program, must seek admission through an extensive application process.
Admission to the program offers access to resources that enhance downtown revitalization. For example, Main Street Iowa has specialists in the fields of design, promotions and communications to work with local communities. The program also provides access to special grants for revitalization purposes and offers an annual awards program to recognize communities who successfully reach redevelopment goals.
Bob believes the Main Street Iowa approach helped create an identity for the Hilltop Campus Village and brought necessary focus on process and initiatives that contributed to the success of revitalization efforts. Those initiatives included sponsoring new activities in the Hilltop district, attracting a dozen new businesses over the past five years and constructing the Harrison Lofts Apartments.
Bob’s recommendation to bring the Iowa Main Street approach to downtown Bettendorf resonates well with many downtown business leaders. Chris Zubroski, owner of Donohoo Steel Treating Company, says the program has strengths which may benefit downtown Bettendorf redevelopment plans. Doug Grenier from Modern Woodsmen adds, “Downtown Bettendorf businesses have been looking for a structured approach to an organized revitalization effort. I feel Main Street Iowa can take us in that direction.”
Bob Lee agreed to serve as chairperson of a Main Street Iowa task force for Bettendorf. The group will meet later this month for organization purposes. An application for Main Street Iowa participation could be submitted by 2015.