2019-2020 Projects

Keokuk Downtown Redevelopment Plan

Community Partner: City of Keokuk, Keokuk Chamber of Commerce, Mainstreet Keokuk

Project Leader: Joyce Glasscock, Executive Director Main Street Keokuk and/or Cole O’Donnell, City Administrator City of Keokuk

Project Description

As part of their capstone project, second-year graduate students from the University of Iowa’s School of Urban & Regional Planning will create a redevelopment plan for a segment of downtown Keokuk, Iowa.

Keokuk, Iowa, is located in southern Lee County, on bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. Keokuk’s population peaked at around 16,500 residents during the 1960, but with many Iowa communities saw population decline during the latter half of the 20th century. The current population has stabilized around 10,600 residents. Keokuk is also known for Lock and Dam No. 19, listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The community of Keokuk requests assistance in the development of a downtown redevelopment plan. The downtown redevelopment area is a segment of the downtown district and  includes 15 city blocks and the River City Mall.  

The main goals of the plan will be to create a sustainable redevelopment plan to reuse existing infrastructure, reinvigorate investment in the downtown area, and create community friendly space that is connected to surrounding residential neighborhoods and the riverfront. Currently, there are several large vacant buildings and lots including the River City Mall, former Baymont Inn and Suites, and the YWCA. There are also several strong anchor buildings in this area including the city hall, Hotel Iowa, Grand Theater and South Lee County Courthouse. In the past three years, several buildings and houses that were beyond repair were demolished resulting in city owned vacant lots. The city would like to attract and incentivize commercial and/or residential development on vacant lots. Furthermore, the city has acquired buildings on and around Main Street that are available for redevelopment. There is active reinvestment in the area including the Eagles on Blondeau historic preservation project completed in 2013 and the future Keokuk Public Library Foundation Park.

The Downtown Redevelopment Plan will examine current land use patterns within the downtown area and will recommend changes based on any current prohibited uses and best practices for the future. These recommendations may include general and permitted uses for any new or redeveloped structures, height and other density requirements, any utility or infrastructure requirements, and parking requirements. The Plan will also recommend design standards for any redevelopment or new development, including architectural standards, signage requirements, streetscape requirements, and open space requirements for the downtown area.

The Downtown Redevelopment Plan will also need to include recommendations for transportation in the downtown area. This may include proposing altering street networks, reexamining street types within the downtown, examining vehicular and pedestrian circulation within the downtown, best practices for signage, and linkages to existing and future public greenspaces.

The Plan must also include identification of funding sources for any new development or redevelopment within downtown, including local, state, and national sources.

Students will also use public input identify strengths and weaknesses of the downtown core to inform planning and design concepts, as well as form, shape, locations of key improvements, and phasing alternatives.

Deliverables

This project will result in redevelopment plan for a targeted segment of downtown Keokuk, Iowa., with a focus on land use recommendations, design guidelines, transportation recommendations, and finance opportunities.

Additional Information

Keokuk was chosen as the IISC community partner for the 2019-20 academic year. IISC will partner with the community on 15-20 projects, presenting opportunities for collaboration and coordination of activities across a variety of disciplines and UI departments. Several projects will be relevant to the downtown redevelopment plan. 

The planning team will also pay particular attention to the recently completed Keokuk Comprehensive Plan, which outlines broad goals for this area of the city.   

 

Keokuk Pathways Plan

Community Partner: City of Keokuk, Keokuk Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Keokuk

Project Leader: Zach James, Assistant Director Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission and/or Mark Bousselot, Public Works Director City of Keokuk

Project Description

As part of their capstone project, second-year graduate students from the University of Iowa’s School of Urban & Regional Planning will create a plan outlining potential opportunities for conversion of low-traffic residential streets to non-vehicular greenways, in addition to developing bicycle and pedestrian routes, for the city of Keokuk, Iowa.

The City of Keokuk, Iowa, is located in southern Lee County, on bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. Keokuk’s population peaked at around 16,500 residents during the 1960s, but like many Iowa communities saw population decline during the latter half of the 20th century. The current population has stabilized around 10,600 residents. Keokuk is also known for Lock and Dam No. 19, listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

As city revenues drop due to population loss, the inevitable decline of infrastructure can lead to many issues for residents of a community. Several cities across the United States have begun implementing ‘greenways’ as an alternative to paved roads. These linear parks typically only include a paved surface wide enough for bicyclists and pedestrians. This greatly reduces the required cost of resurfacing the existing streets, and improves neighborhood aesthetics and safety for residents, including children and the elderly.

While new initiatives have already begun to improve Keokuk’s core neighborhoods through stabilizing the housing stock and improving aesthetics, the maintenance of the streets could prove to be the biggest challenge. Platted in the mid-to-late 1800s, these neighborhoods feature a square-block street grid, with an average of 6 homes on each block (12 on both sides). This has proven to be a wasteful use of resources, as the number of homes is greatly mismatched to the amount of street pavement. As a result, the traffic volume on many of these streets is consistently very low. In addition, most of the homes in these neighborhoods have rear garages with alley access, making the streets themselves less necessary.

Partly as a result of this mismatch, Keokuk has struggled to maintain the aging, crumbling street infrastructure in its older residential neighborhoods. Compounding this is a recent EPA mandate for storm and sanitary sewer separation, which has and will continue to strain the city’s already limited fiscal resources. Taking this into consideration, students will provide an examination of subsurface utility functions, their integration into these new green pathways, how greenway design can lower utility installation and maintenance costs.

The city has also set a priority to enhance and expand sidewalks, trails, and shared routes within the city, with the goal of connecting neighborhoods to downtown and civic destinations while increasing bicycle and pedestrian usage. Students will create a sidewalks, trails, and routes plan for the city, basing this work off the identification of potential non-vehicular greenways to be included as focal points of the route network. Students will also focus on strategies to reduce and overcome existing barriers to walking and bicycling, providing safe and accessible connections between neighborhoods and destinations, and encouraging the integration of active transportation into residents’ lifestyles.

In summary, this project will examine the feasibility of the implementation of greenways in Keokuk, including legal issues, cost/benefit analysis, and social, environmental, and health impacts. This will lead to a final map of specific street segments most appropriate for conversion. Based on these recommendations, a sidewalks, trails, and routes plan will be created, incorporating funding sources, identifications of possible street and/or sidewalk repairs, and public input.

Public input will be necessary in the evaluation of conversion sites, as well as public perception of conversion, and will include, but is not limited to, a series of public meetings within Keokuk and a survey of residents.   

Deliverables

This project will result in a Pathways Plan for the City of Keokuk, which identifies and recommends conversion of specific low-traffic residential streets with non-vehicular ‘greenways’, based on legal issues, public perception, cost/benefit analysis, and the social, environmental, and health impacts, and a sidewalk, trails, and routes plan, incorporating the proposed conversion sites.

Additional Information

Keokuk was chosen as the IISC community partner for the 2019-20 academic year. IISC will partner with the community on 15-20 projects, presenting opportunities for collaboration and coordination of activities across a variety of disciplines and UI departments. Several projects will be relevant to this plan. 

The plan will also pay special attention to the recently completed Keokuk Comprehensive Plan, which outlines goals for resilient and sustainable infrastructure and includes a specific objective of reconstructing or resurfacing all deficient, deteriorated street segments, and working to reduce the impact of these road repairs on the city budget.

 

Iowa City Downtown District Preservation Initiative

Project Leaders:   Nancy Bird, Executive Director, Iowa City Downtown District
                             Anne Russett, Senior Planner, City of City

Project Description

The Iowa City Downtown District is currently listing the majority of Iowa City’s downtown in the National Register of Historic Places (NTHP). While the NTHP listing does not offer protection, it does incentivize historic rehabilitation and conservation to retain the historic integrity of a community. Locally, cities can apply design guidelines to local landmark or conservation districts. These guidelines are often based on the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. However, these Standards are intentionally vague and do not directly address accessibility, property values, and other social values. Recent research by the National Main Street Center’s City Lab, poses the argument: “Why Historic Preservation Needs a New Approach: With new tools and financing methods, preservationists could save endangered spaces without alienating those who should share our cause. Here’s how we can adapt.” In the article, Patrice Frey, suggests preservationists and planners take a multi-disciplinary approach and consider finance, affordable housing, community development, sustainability, and other fields in developing preservation tools in a community. Students will review the existing tools and best practices at the national and local levels and produce a set of recommendations for the Iowa City Downtown District.

Every Certified Local Government in the United States is required to have a staff liaison for their Historic Preservation Commission. Gaining experience working with the State Historical Society, the National Trust, the Downtown District, and the local government, will provide valuable experience for future positions in urban and regional planning. Iowa City has the potential to become the case study for a new approach to preservation/rehabilitation design guidelines. Students will also have the opportunity to present their research at the 2020 Preserve Iowa Summit.

Project Phases

Phase I: Research and Discovery

The planning team will conduct research to learn about the underlying principles of historic preservation, and how historic preservation practices have evolved in the United States and Iowa in recent decades. The planning team will research innovative practices undertaken by cities across the country, and will consult with experts in the field about current issues and emerging trends, particularly related to the relationships between historic preservation and other social/environmental priorities. The planning team will also gain an understanding of the historic assets within the Downtown Iowa City study area.

Phase II: State and Federal Guidelines

The planning team will review state and federal historic preservation tools available to Iowa City, and the applicable guidelines related to a local historic preservation process. They will identify minimum standards or requirements that must be included in a local historic preservation process in order for Iowa City to access the state and federal resources and to maintain its Certified Local Government status. The planning team will also identify state and federal guidelines that are recommended, but not required. 

Phase III: Local Values and Needs

Through outreach activities, the planning team will identify public and stakeholder attitudes about historic preservation in the Downtown Iowa City study area, with a focus on the relationship between historic preservation and other social/environmental values. The planning team will gather information from stakeholders about their attitudes and personal experiences regarding historic preservation, particularly as it relates to downtown development. Stakeholders might include: Iowa City residents, downtown business owners, downtown property owners, local developers, area architecture/building firms, and area non-profits. Through the public input process and additional research, the planning team will identify predominant financial, social, and environmental concerns in the study area. 

Phase IV: Compatibility Analysis

The planning team will use the research and data to evaluate the local historic preservation process (as it applies to the Downtown Iowa City study area). Students will identify elements of the local process that align with applicable state and federal guidelines, as well as elements of the process that are specific to Iowa City. The planning team will conduct an analysis to determine how well the local process aligns with community values and to understand the impact of historic preservation on efforts to address other social needs. 

Phase V: Recommendations

The planning team will make recommendations to the Iowa City Downtown District, City of Iowa City staff, and Historic Preservation Commission about opportunities to modify the local process in such a way that it a) continues to adhere to minimum standards from relevant state and federal guidelines; b) preserves and protects the historic assets in the Iowa City downtown area; c) reflects the values of the community; c) does not unduly compromise efforts to meet other social needs; and d) considers opportunities for flexibility in development activities downtown.  

Sources for Information

  1. National Main Street Center: Patrice Frey, Director
  2. National Development Council
  3. State Historic Preservation Office: Paula Mohr, Certified Local Government Program
  4. Iowa Economic Development Authority: Jim Engle, Iowa Downtown Resource Center
  5. Iowa City Urban Planning: Anne Russett, Senior Planner
  6. Iowa City Historic Preservation Commission:  Jessica Bristow, Historic Preservation Planner
  7. Iowa City Downtown District: Nancy Bird, Director

 

City of Tama Comprehensive Plan

Community Partner: City of Tama

Project Leader: Alyssa Hoskey, City of Tama Clerk

Project Description

As part of their capstone project, second-year graduate students from the University of Iowa’s School of Urban & Regional Planning will create a Comprehensive Plan for the City of Tama, Iowa.

The City of Tama, Iowa, is located in Tama County, south of the intersection of Highways 63 and 30 in central Iowa. Tama’s population peaked at around 3,000 residents during the 1970s and has been stable in recent years at around 2,800 residents, partially as a result of the Iowa Premium meat packing factory located within the eastern city limits. Tama is also known for being adjacent to the Meskwaki Native American settlement. 

With plans for Highway 30 to become a 4-lane interstate highway stretching from Wisconsin to Nebraska, Tama sees opportunities for eastward growth and for capturing traffic from the highway to support increased commercial activity. City officials believe land annexation near Highway 30, just east of the city limits, could help achieve their goals for economic growth. City staff are interested in understanding the legal processes for annexation, and in recommendations for moving forward. With expansion in mind, Smart Growth principles can help guide the effective management of growth impacts on housing, infrastructure, schools, parks and public spaces, and other community amenities.

The City does not currently have a Comprehensive Plan and recognizes the value of having a guiding vision and document for moving forward. A comprehensive plan generally consists of goals and objectives that establish the county's vision for the future. The comprehensive plan is not a legal document. It does not dictate how the community is to be developed, but is meant to outline a possible future that could occur over a defined period through the use of planning, investment policies, and regulatory tools. The comprehensive plan contains policy goals for many aspects of the community; including, for example, land use, transportation, housing, parks and open space, infrastructure, facilities, and economic development. A key aspect of the Comprehensive Plan will be a Future Land Use map, the county’s visual guide to the future, which outlines future growth guidelines for the City. The comprehensive planning process considers the relationship between the current zoning ordinances and land use, and how future land use serves as a guide for decision-making and future changes to zoning. 

The planning process will also include significant outreach for public input, including a series of public meetings within Tama. 

Deliverables

This project will result in Comprehensive Plan for the City of Tama, with a focus on land use, economic development, housing, and transportation.