It was four years ago that the City of Dubuque and other stakeholders began to focus attention on bolstering the Central Avenue corridor.

In 2018, Dubuque Main Street organization held a Build a Better Block event in the 1800 block of Central Avenue, transforming vacant storefronts into temporary “pop-up” shops along with activities for residents of all ages. The idea showcased just how much potential Central Avenue has.

In 2019, the City of Dubuque created a Central Avenue Corridor Streetscape Master Plan. Plans called for closing 18th Street at its intersection with Central and constructing a plaza there, while incorporating green space, landscaping and art along the corridor.

That discussion and planning was exciting. For too long, this section of Dubuque has not received sufficient attention and resources. It has suffered.

Other areas, including Lower Main Street, Millwork District and Port of Dubuque, were made higher priorities. That’s understandable — only so much can be taken on at any one time.

Now, however, it’s time to renew focus on Central Avenue.

The efforts of the last few years have been slow moving, even going backward at times. The Central Avenue corridor has seen some businesses open and later close. The pandemic stalled progress on myriad fronts. But the master plan is still a great vision for the area.

A promising sign of commitment to the area is that City Council members recently voted unanimously to create a pilot program that will provide forgivable loans for housing development projects along a stretch of Central Avenue.

The program will provide individual rehabilitation projects with loans of $10,000 per housing unit developed and will be offered exclusively for properties on Central from 11th to 22nd streets. This area has the highest rate of vacancies in upper-story housing units in the downtown area. Ideally, this program will ignite reinvestment there.

That’s a positive step on what surely will be a long road to improvement.

It wasn’t that long ago that Dubuquers didn’t go to Lower Main Street or into the Millwork District. If it wasn’t due to safety concerns, it was that there was little reason or incentive to go there. That has changed, and continues to change, for the better in those districts. The same revitalization could happen on Central Avenue.

City officials, community stakeholders and citizens should continue to press for improvements and investment in Central Avenue. Its side-by-side storefronts are a snapshot of old Dubuque. New business and building renovations would go a long way toward restoring this classic, treasured area.

Editorials reflect the consensus of the Telegraph Herald Editorial Board.

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