Newton Cultural Action Plan

The City of Newton, Iowa, population 15,147, lies 30 miles east of the Des Moines metro, allowing residents to easily access dozens of cultural resources. Often overlooked, though, are the cultural amenities found within Newton itself.

This strategy envisions how Newton’s creative economy can be enhanced and specifically explores community needs, funding sources, opportunities for collaboration, and business plans for proposed projects.

The goals are to:

  • Spur more economic development and population growth;
  • Grow the operations and services of existing artistic companies;
  • Create more quality of life amenities

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Community Visioning

An underlying goal of this assessment is to determine and develop the key differentiator(s) for Newton. People around the globe are looking for that next adventure when they choose where to live or locate their business;

Newton can be that next adventure.

Current residents must help shape and drive these key differentiators for the community. To date, dozens of community members have shared their ideas through focus groups and interviews. Top ideas and challenges have emerged and serve as the foundation for this strategy.

Residents desire for Newton to be recognized as an attractive place for young people, while not displacing those who have lived there for many years. They want to see an art center and an aesthetically-intriguing outdoor, upscale restaurant. Establishing a brewery also lands at the top of the list. Residents understand the need to provide support to and amenities for young people, such as live music, a pub, and modern rental units – potentially including condominiums and townhomes.

Newton residents aim to increase ethnic and multicultural diversity and would like to capitalize on the creative culture already well established (Centre for Arts and Artists, Sculpture Festival, Blues Festival, etc). In order to increase cultural programming, Newton must work to attract new talent at the same time providing space for current artists to create and showcase their work. Newton is rich with artistic activity, though the majority of musicians and other artists present their work outside of the community.

Our work centered on creating several of the missing pieces to achieve population and cultural growth, as well as helping current entities already engaged in this work to thrive.

A comprehensive listing of the focus group discussions can be found in Appendix A.

Centre for arts & artists

Newton’s Centre for Arts & Artists (CAA) mission is to engage the community in building appreciation of creativity. CAA is housed in a former lumberyard and business office space that has been transformed into a vibrant and active art space. At present, CAA has ten working artist studios, clay/kiln rooms, a classroom, and art displays and needs to increase its programming to serve a growing artistic community.

Inside you will find a plan for a new programming budget with an increased focus on music and performing arts, as well as a new Hot Shop, Classroom space, Sound Recording and additional Artistic Studios. The CAA is poised to become a cultural hotbed of talent and creativity!*

Specifically, CAA should add:

  • Significant educational & entertainment programming
  • Classrooms
  • Additional studio space
  • A gift shop showcasing the creations of local artists
  • A highly-visible gallery with exhibits rotating on a bi-monthly basis

Newton is home to 10-20 bands and musicians. Despite the community’s relatively small size, the music scene is scattered. There is no unifying music entity or venue, thus providing an opportunity for the CAA to bolster its position as the community’s creative leader.

The CAA has the space available to accommodate up to 200 people in a music venue that also could be used for other events, in turn maximizing revenues for CAA and exposing more people to CAA’s work. The venue should be a flexible space and allow for interior and exterior productions and seating, helping to create a vibrant street realm.

Instead of investing in expensive commercial kitchen equipment, CAA should leverage its strategic position between Iowa City and Des Moines and bring in food trucks during productions when there is demand. This would help pull residents and non-residents to the space, as food trucks themselves can become attractions.

CAA should ensure a mix of genres as it turns towards programming this space. The organization should use its location near Interstate 80 to attract touring acts that are passing through.

As the venue becomes more established, CAA will need to weigh its future investments in the music scene. Particularly, CAA should weigh the creation of a recording studio and its support of additional programming.

CAA is poised to position itself as the community’s leading cultural amenity by building on its existing revenue streams and making strategic investments in marketing and staffing. CAA is well-positioned to increase the revenues it collects by increasing its programmatic offerings. There is real opportunity to grow the existing gift shop, which currently only serves an educational purpose, and, in conjunction with other community entities, to launch a capital campaign to support building improvements as well as staffers to sustain additional programming.

The project budget model calls for CAA raising $87,750 towards programming in its first year from grants and donations. This amount is broken out into corporate and sponsorship support as well as individual gifts and grants/foundational support.

A large amount of this funding should be generated during the capital campaign. As an example, suppose Alliant Energy agrees to donate $100,000 towards the capital campaign. The ask to Alliant should be $125,000 – with $25,000 being earmarked as $5,000 annual gifts over five years to go towards general operating funding.

To assure a strong first few years of operations, 75% of the $87,750 should be generated during the capital campaign.

New programming should run the gamut from traditional music lessons to a theater camp to independent films to trivia nights:

  • Piano
  • Guitar
  • Painting
  • Photography
  • Ceramics
  • General Art
  • Graphic Arts
  • Computers 101
  • Yoga
  • Dance Classes
  • After School Programs
  • Art Camps
  • Music Camps
  • Theater Camps
  • Culinary Camps
  • Gallery Openings
  • Live Music
  • Independent Films
  • Local Films
  • Cult Classics
  • Family Films
  • Trivia
  • Open Mic
  • Comedy Nights
  • Theater Productions

Action Steps

Develop and execute a build out concept for space

Architect & CAA

See high level architectural rendering with suggested
space sizes and locations

Q4 2017 – Q1 2018

Create a capital campaign committee

CAA Board & Staff

Identify 7-20 passionate local leaders to help guide
the process and elect 1-3 members as Chair(s) to drive

Q1 2018

Develop a fundraising strategy and campaign

CAA Board & Campaign Committee

Based on costs from architect and contractor, add on 50% of annual general operating costs and make asks for capital and on-going support. Spread support over 3-5 years by working with local financial institution providing low-interest construction bridge loan backed by donors. Campaign should last 18 months. Raise ½ of campaign before full campaign is announced to community. Start construction when ¾ campaign pledges are reached.

**See Appendix B for more info on capital campaign and corporate campaign ideas

Q1 2018 (strategy) Q2 2018 (launch)

Board/Staff development

CAA Board & Campaign Committee

See outlined model in Appendix B

Ongoing 2018

Day care

Quality day care is one of the things preventing workforce development and general growth in Newton, according to many companies and individuals.The need for expanded day care in Newton was one of the first amenities identified as part of this visioning process.

The YMCA is the primary service provider following the closure of the independent center some years back; the other providers are largely in homes.

YMCA officials indicated a need to expand their current day care operations, as they are at full capacity. A capital campaign – part of a contemplated larger capital campaign for the YMCA – has been discussed to accomplish this expansion.

Given the previous recommendation for the CAA to move forward with a capital campaign to expand its work, the idea of launching a joint capital campaign between the YMCA and CAA was contemplated; it would be immensely challenging for the community to support two separate campaigns that would end up competing with one another. YMCA officials, however, reported that such a campaign is either on hold or not happening at this time.

The CAA and YMCA could partner on day care services. The CAA expansion will have plentiful classrooms spaces, largely ignored during day care hours. Day care operations at the CAA could be administered by the YMCA as part of their regular offerings but take place at the CAA. YMCA would be responsible for staffing and managing operations as well as paying a rent to CAA for their space. A secondary option would have some of the day care revenue go to the CAA in lieu of rent.

This option would benefit the YMCA in addition to the CAA, as it would clearly build the case for the need to expand the YMCA’s physical space if and when the organization decides to move forward with a capital campaign.

In the second scenario, the CAA would provide day care at their space and administer and manage the program, separate from the YMCA. This would create competition with the YMCA operation so is not the most ideal.

Despite the competition that would be created from Scenario 2, YMCA officials rejected Scenario 1, leading to the recommendation of Scenario 2. The day care should start with 16 kids and 2 professionals (8:1 ratio) at the rate of $140/week for kids two and over. This rate is slightly lower than the YMCA rate and is appropriate, as the CAA will not have all the amenities the YMCA offers.

The CAA day care should start slow to ensure quality care, with the option of adding more options for children under 2 and/or those who are not yet potty trained; this will eventually help meet even more community need while also increasing enrollment. Given the CAA’s emphasis, an arts-based approach to the day care is logical.

The CAA will need to add approximately $50,000 to its capital campaign to build two children’s restrooms as well as to purchase furniture and other items needed to outfit the day care. Children will be able to use other areas of the CAA, including the theater, gallery, studio, classroom, and outdoor space. The CAA should consider dedicating a space in their kitchen to the day care programming, perhaps beginning with a refrigerator that is only for use by the day care professionals.

Action Steps

Include day care amenities in CAA buildout concept and operational budget for expense and revenue

CAA & Architect

Create 2-3 classroom spaces to allow for day care and how day care effects the budget

Q4 2017

Develop and launch marketing strategy for day care

CAA Board

Meet with registered daycare professionals
and let them create the program, including the
financial model

Q2 2018

Hire staff for day care

CAA Board

Work with professionals who worked on creating program and offer them positions consistent with program outline

Q1 2019

capitol II theater

Capitol II Theater is a Newton landmark. Recent, new competition in nearby Altoona has left a dent in attendance, forcing the theater to reconsider its programming and business structure. Turning the Capitol into a non-profit offering new programming while still churning out first run films, an updated concession stand featuring beer and wine, and an updated facility will drive the Capitol II back into an essential cultural landmark.

Why the Capitol II?
  • Beer & Wine
  • Educational Opportunities
  • Special Events
  • Student Film Academy
  • Classic Film Screenings
  • Local Filmmaker Series

In Tucson, The Loft Cinema helps create community through film by “honoring the vision of filmmakers, celebrating ideas, and promoting the appreciation and understanding of the art of film.”

The nonprofit formed in November 2002 and, to date, has hosted over 450 film industry professionals and scholars through its signature film screenings and Q&As. The Loft shows independent and classic art films and regularly works with community partners to grow awareness about key issues.

In September 2016, the City of Newton purchased the historic Maytag Hotel with the intent of selecting a developer to rehabilitate the building. In May 2017, the City selected Hatch Development Company as its preferred developer.

The proposal under consideration calls for co-working space for building tenants, restoration of the ballroom into community space, and one- and two-bedroom apartments on the second through fifth floors. The developer also is exploring options to renovate the existing commercial spaces at the street level. Among current tenants is the Capitol II Theatre. It currently is home to two screens, but the proprietors recognize the need for new and updated amenities to allow the business to flourish.

This strategy will allow the Capitol II to remain viable. The theater will not be able to compete with the recently opened Cinemark 12 screen theater in Altoona, a 30-minute drive away, when it comes to first run films. Modernizing the equipment, diversifying the concession options to include beer and wine, and updating the décor will help, but also will be costly.

It will be challenging for the potential new revenue collected from these enhancements to offset the capital expenses. However, adding an educational arm to programming will allow the business to become a nonprofit entity, in turn enabling it to raise the funds locally for these renovations. In addition, the new nonprofit entity can plan several fundraising events annually to help bridge the gap in annual revenue.

Creating a student film academy, showing classic films as educational offerings, and hosting a local filmmaker series are among the ideas that will aid in forming the nonprofit and offer unique programming that the Cinemark will not.

The existing theater should work with the new owner of the Hotel Maytag building it is housed in to take over the 3rd floor ballroom space. The new owner is employing historic tax credits to help offset the capital costs for renovation. These credits dictate that original spaces, such as the ballroom, must be kept intact; therefore, the ballroom space cannot become residential units.

The theater should work with its next landlord and secure an offset to the capital funding needed to modernize the space, in exchange for taking on the ballroom space with an annual rent. This will allow the landlord to generate revenue from this space without having to program it, while simultaneously allowing the theater to use classroom and rental space to increase its programming revenue.

Action Steps

Form nonprofit to run theater

Theater ownership & new Board of Directors

Determine educational and cultural programming, work with local attorney for pro-bono 501c3 creation

Q1 2018

Develop business plan for addition of concessions (including beer and wine), modernization of space, potential third screen, and new non-profit educational programming

McClure Placemaking staff & new Board of Directors

Either hire McClure staff to help and/or work internally. Add in new revenue from concessions and determine fundraising campaign for capital and gap funding

Q1 2018

Acquire additional space to add concessions and third screen

Nonprofit & Hatch Development Group

Workout deal with HDG to take over 3rd floor ballroom to convert to 3rd screen and educational/cultural programming space. HDG needs a tenant for space, so HDG should help with buildout costs for both ballroom and updated infrastructure in exchange.

Q1 2018

Establish partnership with DMACC to host monthly outdoor movie in park

Nonprofit & DMACC

Work with DMACC staff to determine annual schedule. Use this programming as marketing for theater.

To be determined with DMACC staff


A 2016 report in The Atlantic cataloged eleven signs a city will succeed. The final item on this list: They have at least one craft brewery. Newton has a unique tie to the beginning of the craft beer renaissance, as native Fritz Maytag bought the struggling Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco and turned it into one of the most successful breweries in the first wave of craft beer.

Iowa has 70 craft breweries and ranks 14th for the number of breweries per capita at 3.2. However, Iowa ranks 41st for production per capita at 0.9 gallons per year. With its population, proximity to Interstate 80, location between Des Moines and Iowa City, and burgeoning cultural scene, Newton is well-positioned to support a microbrewery.

There are no breweries within ten miles of Newton. However, Peace Tree Brewing Company has a presence in Knoxville and will open another branch in Grinnell in fall 2017. The Iowa River Brewing Company is in Marshalltown, and Reclaimed Rails is in Altoona.

Still, the possibility of beer tourism is strong. Consumers often will visit multiple breweries in one day if possible. This tourism opportunity would serve as a nice complement to Newton’s own population. Further, the microbrewery would support talent attraction and retention in Newton.

Newton should seek to open a taproom operating under a microbrewery license, which would offer the manufacturer retail and wholesale privileges. The entity could sell beer, produced on- and off-site, as well as wine. The focus should be on high quality beer overseen by a qualified brewer – with formal training and some experience in a commercial setting – as the owner or key employee. The front of house should be managed by someone with hospitality experience to ensure high guest satisfaction.

The microbrewery should partner with local producers such as Maytag Dairy to offer unique on-site food options. Alternatively, the microbrewery may consider partnering with local restaurants or caterers such as Moo’s BBQ to fill the void.

As the microbrewery starts, a 5-barrel brewhouse that can produce 500 barrels per year should be used. This would provide enough product for the taproom and allow for limited distribution. Beer could be sold to-go in growlers or crowlers, helping build key accounts locally and strategically and creating awareness of the new microbrewery.

The recommended space would allow for a generous brewery on the south end of the building, while the main taproom could fill the rest of the building with a door to the west spilling onto a patio. The two buildings could be connected to provide overflow taproom space for busier nights or private event space. The nearby parking lots would provide space for larger events throughout the year.

More information and full business plan can be found in Appendix C.

Much of what is needed to start a successful table service restaurant and corresponding lounge already is in place, and the space is in relatively good condition. Most of the needed furniture is in place as well. Most of the needed upgrades appear to be cosmetic.

The following costs assume the building will be reconfigured into a full service lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch restaurant on the second floor and a taproom on the first floor.

Full business plan for overall programming and budget can be found in Appendix C.

2nd Floor Restaurant
POS System $4,000
Back of House $15,000
Small Wares $5,000
Buildout $14,000
1st Floor Tap Room
POS System $4,000
Small Kitchen Prep Equipment $5,000
Small Wares $2,500
Buildout $5,000

Action Steps

Identify operator

Mike Street, Matt Ibbotson, & Carter Smith

Offer business plan (Appendix D) created here to all interested parties

Q4 2017

Utilize business plan to identify capital

Mike Street, Matt Ibbotson, & Carter Smith

City of Newton should provide some financial assistance through TIF funding, and help identify local financial institution for loan as well as local investors for capital. Jasper County can help by selling building for $1 to owners, as the economic impact could be over $1M annually.

Q1 2018

Construction and opening

Construction and opening

Once capital is secured, work with Architect
and Contractor to renovate

Q2 2018, opening TBD 2018


DMACC’s Newton Maytag Campus Buildings 1 & 2 present a unique opportunity for restaurant development. Outlined here are 3 exciting concepts to bring this property back to relevance in Newton:

  • Flagship, full service, modern restaurant
  • Upscale cocktail lounge
  • Ballroom event space

Newton already is home to over 35 establishments that technically meet the definition of being in the “restaurant industry.” Still, the community has several gaps in its offerings, as most of its existing restaurants are chains or offer only quick or limited service, often with menus based around pizza, tacos, and value sandwiches.

Newton residents desire a more upscale option with table service, such as a brewpub or steakhouse. Specifically, they want a restaurant with “great service, a big plate of food, and a low price.” They also would like to see healthier and more varied entrée options. Residents consistently said they would would pay $15 for an entrée at this kind of establishment.

This proposed concept is a three-legged stool—gastropub with or without brewery, upscale cocktail lounge, and catered banquet space.  All will share a kitchen space but have dedicated staffs during cross over open hours. Additionally, a staging/preparation area for large catering events will be planned into the renovation—separate, but near the kitchen and service elevators. Each concept brings something to the Newton hospitality scene that is currently both missing and desired.

The Newton Brewpub will provide locally brewed craft beer and/or a taproom with a heavy emphasis on local craft brews.  It will also offer a “gastropub culinary approach” providing modern takes on classic bar food and steaks with a focus on locally sourced produce and proteins.

The Craft Cocktail Lounge will provide an intimate upscale venue focusing on handmade craft cocktails and wines by the glass.  A sophisticated lounge, it will be open in the evenings and include a limited small plate/ tapas and dessert menu paired with, and complementing, the featured cocktails and wine.

The DMACC Newton Maytag Campus Event Center will provide a fullservice banquet facility in a romantically refurbished turn-of-the-century space.  The event center will accommodate a single large event (up to 250) or several small groups (30+) simultaneously. Menu options will be available in multiple price ranges.  Outside caterers will not be allowed.  In addition to leveraging the kitchen, it will have portable bar stations in the event space.

To fulfill these desires, the community should recruit a single proprietor and/or management group to bring a three concept strategy to the historic DMACC Newton Maytag Campus, buildings 1 & 2. The concepts include the Newton Brewpub, the Caft Cocktail Lounge, and the DMACC Newton Event Center, all of which would be built out as part of the renovation of the Maytag buildings donated to DMACC’s Newton Campus.

Once the renovation is complete, the flagship operation of this hospitality venture, the Newton Brewpub, will be gutted, redesigned, and updated to serve as the kitchen operations for all three venues, as well as the guest space of the brewpub. The brewpub will offer locally crafted beer and/or a taproom with a heavy emphasis on local craft brews. The menu will provide modern takes on classic bar food and steaks, with a focus on locally sourced ingredients.

The cocktail lounge also will be located at street level with its own entrance. The lounge is envisioned as a sophisticated lounge. The lounge will focus on handmade craft cocktails and wines by the glass. It will open in the evenings and include a limited small plate/tapas and dessert menu paired with the cocktails.

The third refurbished space will be home to the DMACC Newton Maytag Campus Event Center, a banquet facility and event center, managed and catered exclusively (or under significantly preferential pricing) by the operator of the Newton Brewpub. The ballroom will accommodate a single large event (up to 250 people) or several small groups (30+) simultaneously. Menu options will be available in multiple price ranges.

See Appendix D for full business plan.

Action Steps

Recruit a single proprietor and/or management group

Iowa Restaurant Association, City of Newton, & Hatch Development Group (HDG)

Once construction schedule for DMACC Newton Maytag Campus buildings 1 & 2 is determined, work together to offer TIF incentives from City as well as buildout incentives and favorable lease structure by HDG to attract tenant.

TBD by HDG in 2018

Develop buildout concept

Architect, owner, & HDG

Creative historic design

TBD by HDG in 2018

Secure capital to complete buildout of the three spaces

Owner & HDG

Work with local incentives and financial institution to ensure favorable, low risk plan

TBD by HDG in 2018


The proposed rendering for a new Centre for Arts and Artists will require a capital campaign of $2.5M – $3M based on these assumptions:

Forbes (tenant) is renting out the following approximate gross square footages (GSF) of the warehouse:

  • 1st Floor: 13,500 GSF
  • 2nd Floor: 3,500 GSF (approx. copiers area)

Gross square footages for the following areas:

  • 1st Floor: Total; 18,220 GSF
  • Tenants & Conference Rooms: 2,270 GSF
  • Gift Shop: 2,450 GSF
  • Warehouse: 13,500 GSF
  • 2nd Floor: Total; 16,220 GSF
  • Tenants & CAA Classrooms: 4,720 GSF
  • Warehouse:  11,500 GSF (approx.)
  • Total Building: 34,440 GSF

Theater proposed:

  • 4,500 SF (1st Floor)  1,500 SF (2nd Floor)
  • Potential to swap bar/sound studio to allow for private entrance/exit for bar
  • The bar area is designed to operate when there is a show on only, if operated by the non-profit

Action and Advice for Capital Campaign:

  • Work with professional fundraising group to launch and administer capital campaign.
  • McClure Placemaking would be interested in assisting the community in a Phase 2 for this work, as well as overseeing creation for brewery, restaurant, and new movie theater.

The existing entities that are part of this work should engage other Newton partners in realizing and sustaining this suite of projects. These include the Newton Development Corporation and the Jasper County Economic Development Corporation. The Newton Development Corporation offers gap funding through its IRP Loan Program, working to promote new business startups and expansion and retention projects.

Beyond this, the community should work to develop strategic alliances with Prairie Meadows, the Greater Des Moines Partnership, and the Iowa Speedway. Additionally, community leaders should strengthen and/or forge partnerships with Jasper County and State of Iowa officials.


Newton is on the brink of major growth. There are strong signs already in a healthy housing market, developers showing interest in the rental market, the CAA responding to artistic venue shortage by launching a capital campaign, and DMACC’s continual march towards filling up the former Maytag Campus. Additionally, residents share optimistic views of Newton’s future, which is rare in rural communities. What stands out the most, though, is the scope of the artistic scene. The number of working artists – both amateur and professional – living in a community of this size is unheard of.

The artistic scene is diverse, with musicians and visual artists dominating the community. Early on in this process, it became abundantly clear that what the community most desired was an expansion of the already successful Centre for Arts and Artists. Even though housing needs and other quality of life amenities are necessary to move Newton forward, the Steering Committee was clear in directing the CAA should be the centerpiece of this work.

Programming and a capital budget will support this quest for performance and exhibition space. Actionable steps offer an easy to follow plan.

Quality of life amenities are necessary to attract and retain the next workforce without alienating those that have lived in Newton all their lives. Included are actionable plans to execute a new brewery and a new restaurant, plans to help the Capitol II Theater become sustainable, and details on how the CAA capital plan increase day care opportunities and other cultural amenities.

Newton should look towards a new marketing plan for the community. Given the remarkably strong presence of musicians spanning generations, the City should think through a Music Stamp model. Newton can position itself as a “music capital” that is welcoming to local musicians, providing them space to work and perform.

Looming over all of this work is Newton’s dynamic geographic location. Sitting just outside the Des Moines metro, Newton will undoubtedly become further ingrained as part of the metro within the next 15 years. Implementing the plans outlined here are paramount to taking full advantage of this growth. As hundreds of artists, entrepreneurs, and families are priced out of the Des Moines metro, Newton can and should  be the number one option to relocate in the metro.

The execution of these projects will not only further the quality of life in Newton today but lead to other catalytic projects tomorrow.

We are excited to play a part in the economic and cultural explosion in Newton, and look forward to seeing these projects realized.