Hamburg looks to lake development in flood comeback

The heart of the small Iowa town was completely wiped out in 2019′s Heartland Flood.
Updated: May. 14, 2021 at 5:11 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A small town in Iowa is thinking big on its road to recovery from the 2019 historic flood, despite some setbacks.

“It’s pretty surreal because I’ve been here for 42 years and go up and down the streets and you don’t see the same things,” said Phil Kuhr, manager of Stoner Drug. He’s referring to the demolition of five flood-ruined buildings on Hamburg’s Historic Main Street.

“The sun comes through the window in the morning and it never used to,” said Kuhr, noting the absence of the buildings. “It’s different that’s for sure.”

And now the town is trying to figure out the future with some help from the Iowa Economic Development Authority.

“We’re trying to really root our solutions and planning strategies in the desires and the dreams of the communities themselves,” said Kevin Nordmeyer, Principal Architect, BNIM, noting that in Hamburg their main street means a lot.

“It’s the hub of the town so it has to continue to have the character that it always had,” said Mayor Cathy Crain.

Kaytie Hayes and her husband opened a new coffee shop on Main Street; they’re banking on a comeback.

“I do hope Main Street thrives and succeeds because that helps our business in return,” Hayes, Owner, Relax and Unwind. “The more people that come into town, the more traffic we see through Main Street.”

The construction of a bigger and better levee could also be key in attracting more people, and not just because of the added protection. “When you take that much dirt to build a levee, to build one as tall as that one is and over a hundred feet wide there’s going to be a big hole,” said the mayor, noting they would like turn the hole into a lake development.

“It’s going to be a fairly large lake so they’ll be recreation opportunities, possibly fishing opportunities and it’s just a visual amenity for businesses around it that might choose to build around it,” said Nordmeyer.

Hayes believes the lake is a great idea.

“My kids would really enjoy going out there to swim and fish, and boating,” she said. “If that’s available they love to do that.”

As for Kuhr is fine with whatever brings the people back. “I hoping that there’s building put up and that there’s activity,” Kuhr said. “That’s what I kind of miss is the people coming in and out.”

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