Architecture firm to prepare design guidelines for Grand Avenue Historic Commercial District

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Spencer City Council Chambers sign

A Mason City architecture firm will begin preparing design guidelines for the Grand Avenue Historic Commercial District.

The Spencer City Council on Monday approved with a 7-0 vote an agreement with Bergland and Cram to create the guidelines.

The discussion about the need for guidelines began, City Manager Amanda Mack told the council, after a “rather intense” discussion about murals on commercial buildings.

“Painful,” said Bill Orrison, Ward 2 council member, regarding those mural discussions.

The new guidelines will provide business and property owners with guidance on certain topics, such as murals, replacing windows and more. Mack said both business and property owners will participate in the guideline-setting process.

Ward 5 City Councilman Ron Hanson said he felt the guidelines could place a burden on property owners downtown.

“It could put some undue expenses on property owners downtown.” Hansen said.

But Mack said the guidelines would not be requirements unless the council decided to make them required.

“I wouldn’t recommend doing that without incentivizing it. Right now, we don’t have an incentive program established for it.”

Hanson said some downtown businesses have already had trouble following existing requirements.

The Spencer Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) was awarded a Certified Local Government Grant from the State Historical Society last July to create the guidelines. The grant covers 60% of the cost, while the city must pay 40% of costs, which can include in-kind contributions.

According to city staff, the estimated cost to the city is $11,600. That will be funded from the miscellaneous expense fund in the city budget.

The HPC received proposals from four firms and recommended Bergland and Cram.

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