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Rocking the Block

Bloomfield couple gives back to community

The historic Hill Block in downtown Bloomfield isn’t named for Justin Hill and Diana Upton-Hill. But the couple’s commitment to community-building here makes it a happy coincidence. As entrepreneurs who grew up in southern Iowa, they take a personal approach to community enhancement.

The Hills invest their talents, time and financial resources into multifaceted initiatives that create more opportunities in the community. Justin and Diana launched their first business, Hill Productions & Media Group, to promote their professional musical endeavors. They now offer full marketing and creative services. They have retail and real-estate development ventures, too.

“If you are a creative person who accomplishes goals and get things done…it's like a beacon of light to people,” Justin said. “When you find people who are happy doing what they're doing, they naturally attract collaboration.”

Now, Justin and Diana are reinvesting in rural Iowa. They volunteer heavily with Bloomfield’s Main Street Iowa initiative and give back through grants that target small-town communities. HPMG has issued close to $50,000 in grants and pro-bono support to regional causes, like new windows for the Corning Opera House Cultural Center and flooring for the opera house in Greenfield, where Diana has performed.

“When you're involved, you have those personal connections,” Diana said. “It's about keeping your eyes, your ears, and your mind open to possibilities.”

Diana previously served as Bloomfield’s Main Street Director and currently chairs the local Historic Preservation Commission. That work offers insights into opportunities to highlight and grow the good in their community. She and Justin are drawn to projects and partnerships with the potential to bolster the economy, enhance arts and culture, and strengthen relationships among neighbors.

Inspiration for Preservation

One of the possibilities they saw stood on the Bloomfield Square. The Hill Block, three contiguous brick buildings that date back to 1869, needed a new lease on life.

“Two of the buildings were condemned by the city and the wall in between them had completely failed due to a long-running leak,” Justin said. “People thought I was crazy, but I look at it as a huge opportunity, because no one else was going to touch it.”

He had already co-founded The Goodhill Company, a real estate development team focused on revitalization and restoration, to tackle a local Midcentury building. This felt like the next challenge. The powerhouse duo leveraged Diana’s downtown economic development knowledge to rally resources and create a shared vision for the Hill Block’s future.

Hill Block during construction

After addressing the structural integrity, the next phase of construction focused on façade improvements. Eventually, they will bring street-level commercial space and luxury loft-style apartments online. Awarded a Main Street Iowa Challenge Grant and Downtown Housing Grant from the Iowa Economic Development Authority, the transformative mixed-use development will be a draw in Davis County.

The experience has also influenced what’s next for Justin and Diana Hill’s entrepreneurship journey. They’re exploring ways to expand their bricks and mortar operations from a place they’re happy to call home.

“Iowa is open to any entrepreneurial vision—any idea,” Justin said. “You’re supported here.”

Published August 31, 2023

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