Over the last 10 years several successful public and private projects have been completed in downtown Mason City, including streetscape and Central Park improvements, installation of decorative street lighting, erection of wayfinding signs, façade improvements program, nomination and listing of the Mason City Downtown Historic District to the National Register of Historic Places and the historic rehabilitation of local sites including the Historic Park Inn Hotel and City National Bank.

The River City Renaissance Project has been a significant redevelopment project for Mason City, which included a multi-purpose ice arena in an unused section of Southbridge Mall, a new hotel and civic center and an indoor/outdoor performance pavilion.

Music Man Square features a museum honoring the life and career of Meredith Willson as well as space for the River City Barbershop Chorus. A rich architectural heritage is also found in Mason City. With one of the largest concentrations of Prairie School architecture in one location, Mason City contains the only remaining Frank Lloyd Wright-designed hotel and the Rock Glen-Rock Crest National Historic District, which is the largest collection of Prairie School homes in a natural setting in the world. River City Sculptures on Parade offers self-guided tours of over 50 pieces by local and regional artists throughout the downtown area. The community boasts the presence of two live performance theaters and the annual Iowa Independent Film Festival.

The Willow Creek Corridor is a unique, natural gateway under development that connects the downtown with other community amenities. This corridor is showcased as a part of Mason City’s Cultural and Entertainment District and integrated into the trail system The goal for the Willow Creek Corridor is to create an inviting usable space that incorporates the natural environment and complements community and downtown assets and economic development initiatives.

Mason City was designated an Iowa Great Place in 2006. Mason City’s Willow Creek Downtown Corridor was re-designated in 2019. The Mason City Downtown Cultural and Entertainment District was designated an Iowa Cultural & Entertainment District in 2005 and re-designated in 2019.

Project Spotlight

City National Bank and Park Inn Hotel

The Frank Lloyd Wright-designed City National Bank and Park Inn Hotel are now under the ownership of Wright on the Park, Inc. Historic rehabilitation of both buildings was completed in 2011. The Historic Park Inn Hotel provides unique accommodations that incorporate history, architecture and modern hotel amenities. The buildings include meeting/venue space and feature the 1910 Grill, offering a breakfast and dinner menu, and the 1910 Lounge, featuring craft beers from around the world and a 100-year-old billiards table. Tours are also available. The wayfinding signs were installed in 2011. Completion of several historic rehabilitation projects has resulted in growth of social and economic activity in the downtown and in the community.

Principal Pavillion

Part of the River City Renaissance, the Principal Pavilion is an indoor-outdoor performing arts space that’s part of the repurposing of Southbridge Mall. The north entryway was converted into a permanent venue for the Mason City Municipal Band and TubaChristmas and will also serve to accommodate a variety of events, including as a rain site for the North Iowa Band Festival and Friday Night Live events.

Willow Creek Riverwalk

Willow Creek is located along the southern boundary of downtown, an overlooked natural gateway into the heart of Mason City. The Willow Creek Area Master Plan provides a vision and framework for development of the area to complement downtown revitalization efforts. The Plan coincides with City Council’s Goals and Priorities and the Downtown and City Comprehensive plans. The goal of the work plan is to create an inviting, usable space incorporating the natural environment and link the community’s cultural amenities, downtown, new multi-purpose arena, hotel and convention center, performing arts pavilion and recreational and leisure venues. Projects outlined in the Vision Plan are designed to foster continued development of commercial and housing projects along the Willow Creek corridor.

Mason City has made the most of its history, historic architecture, public artwork and more to create an authentic sense of place that appeals to visitors and residents alike. The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs designated the city as an Iowa Great Place and its downtown as an Iowa Cultural & Entertainment District.