A candid conversation about Conrad: ISU students, local residents convene for comprehensive study kickoff

Iowa State professor Carlton Basmajian (front) speaks in front of his own students and a panel of Conrad residents and businesspeople in the Alexander Room at the library on Thursday. His class is in the process of creating a comprehensive study of the town. (Robert Maharry/The Grundy Register photo) 

If Conrad is going to grow and develop in the years ahead, how can all of its needs be met? And are labels like ‘snob hill’ and ‘the Ankeny of Marshalltown’ terms of endearment or pejoratives that should be shunned?


No question was off limits as Iowa State University city planning students, under the direction of Professor Carlton Basmajian, kicked off their “Comprehensive Study” at the library last Wednesday night, addressing everything from housing to businesses to recreation to the aforementioned perceptions of the town. For most of the 20-plus students, who primarily hail from large metropolitan areas like Chicago and the Twin Cities, the rural setting of Conrad (pop. 1,108) created a bit of a culture shock, and they had plenty of questions for the panel of residents, business owners and officials in attendance.


Mayor Jeff Martin made one thing clear early on: although conversations about bringing a restaurant to town have been ongoing since Carol’s closed over four years ago, he doesn’t want that mission to be the sole focus of the study. The purpose, rather, should be crafting a more wide-ranging vision for a small community eager to grow.


Councilman Todd Schnathorst, who’s lived in Conrad for about a decade and works at Emerson, was the first to directly mention the “Ankeny of Marshalltown” claims and expressed concerns about enrollment trends at BCLUW.


“We all know enrollment is heading south, so how does that affect the plan?” he asked. 


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