APA-Iowa announces recipients of 2018 Iowa Planning Awards

Council Bluffs, Iowa (October 19, 2018) - Each year, the Iowa Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA-Iowa) asks its members to nominate plans, projects, and individuals deserving recognition by the professional organization.  Award nominees can be recognized in nineteen categories ranging from public outreach to distinguished leadership.  Based on an independent review by a jury of professional planners from the Wisconsin Chapter of the APA, eleven nominees have been selected to receive APA-Iowa Awards in 2018.  Descriptions of these awards, taken from their applications, can be found below. 

Best Practice

Iowa Department of Transportation

Transit Stop ADA Compliance Application

The purpose of the Transit Stop ADA Compliance Application is to identify the steps the Iowa DOT will take to achieve ADA compliance for various facilities. With over 800 public transit bus stops located on DOT-owned right-of-way, the Office of Public Transit initiated an effort to identify and assess the compliance of these stops to meet Federal ADA regulations.

The Transit ADA compliance application was developed to better focus limited resources on bus stops that could potentially prevent populations with disabilities from being able to access public transportation. Through the collaborative efforts of three offices, across multiple divisions within the agency; the DOT was able to leverage a diverse array of skillsets and subject matter experts while keeping the development of the data collection application in-house utilizing expertise from within the department on geographic information systems (GIS) and app development.

Since the incorporation of the transit ADA compliance application, the DOT has been able to assess 611 bus stops over a 1 month period, averaging 150-200 stops per week and 50-100 per day. These assessments update their dashboard in real-time enabling the DOT to manage its implementation. In minutes, the DOT can automatically generate batches of reports in a standardized memo for distribution to transit agencies.

For more information please contact Joseph Drahos at (515) 239-1772.

Environmental Planning

City of Dubuque

Upper Bee Branch Creek Restoration Project

The Bee Branch Watershed, where over 50 percent of Dubuque’s residents either live or work, is the area hit hardest during rain events. In the early 1900s, the Bee Branch Creek was buried underground in a storm sewer. As Dubuque grew, the capacity of the storm sewer was regularly overwhelmed during major rain events. Six Presidential Disaster Declarations were issued between 1999 and 2011 due to flash flooding resulting in an estimated $69.8 million in damages.

The Bee Branch Creek Restoration involved replacing almost one-mile of storm sewer with a creek and floodplain. This daylighting of the buried creek allows storm water to safely move through the area without flooding adjacent properties. It also serves as a linear park with amenities including a multi-use trail, scenic overlooks, play areas, a community orchard and garden, an outdoor classroom, benches, lighting, and over 4,000 plantings. Split into two distinct sections, the Lower Bee Branch was completed in 2011. This nomination is for the 1,938-foot long Upper Bee Branch portion, which was finished in July 2017.

For more information, please contact Kristin Hill at (563) 690-6068.

Economic Development Planning

City of Spencer / RDG Planning & Design.

Spencer Riverfront Plan

The Little Sioux River is a tremendous asset for the City of Spencer.  Like other communities, Spencer developed near the river and began to slowly see the river as a resource that separated the city into parts.  The city is increasingly seeing the river as an economic development and cultural resource, and by that recognition launched a planning process to align common interests for a better future.

The purpose of the City of Spencer’s Riverfront Plan is to “create a highly visible and vibrant riverfront district along the Little Sioux River in downtown.”  The initial objective of the study was to explore opportunities for “high-density, mixed-use space containing residential, retail, commercial, and public parks that create a mix of active uses and capitalize on the riverfront.”  The plan’s strategy is to enhance the use of the river and to develop the riverfront as a community center and gathering spot.

The plan presents partnerships where public initiatives become a catalyst for new private investments.  Spaces along the river have been designed to provide flexible programming, where a new riverfront plaza can be used as a festival space for concerts during the summer and a ice skating area during the winter.  This feature is moving forward.

For more information, please contact Cory Scott at (515) 288-3141.


Iowa Department of Transportation

Iowa in Motion 2045

The Iowa Department of Transportation’s most recent multimodal long-range transportation planning effort, Iowa In Motion 2045, represented a transformation for the agency.  The plan, which was developed in-house by Iowa DOT staff, promotes the department’s mission of mobility and stewardship of a safe, efficient, and sustainable multimodal transportation system.  This vision was strongly supported and further refined through extensive stakeholder and public input, and the plan has quickly transitioned into impactful implementation activities.  These changes are being manifested in rapidly evolving project development and programming processes and support sustainable investment through asset management and performance-based decision-making.

For more information, please contact Garrett Pedersen at (515) 239-1520.


City of La Porte City / MSA Professional Services

La Porte City Downtown Revitalization Plan

The City of La Porte City, approximately 2,300 residents, has a charming downtown, which historically has been its commercial hub. Unfortunately, sluggish economic times, retiring small business owners and competition from larger neighboring communities such as Waterloo and Cedar Falls has meant a slow decline in the vitality of La Porte’s downtown district.

The plan provided recommendations on how and when to coordinate with the private market in order to best achieve the full breadth of the Plan’s vision, knowing that it may take a few years to achieve every goal. La Porte City is moving steadily forward with the implementation of the Revitalization Plan. The farmers market began selling fresh produce and local goods from their new downtown location in June of 2015, with an immediate notable increase in traffic.  The façade revitalization project rehabilitated 10 building façades along Main Street, such as bringing the intricate brickwork of the Syndicate Block building (1891) back to life and providing a rustic-contemporary new galvanized entryway with complementary lighting to the Ag Museum.  A Main Street streetscape project that includes the revitalization of the existing historic brick street is currently in the planning stages.  The City is also working toward Wolf Creek improved access with a boat landing for kayaks and canoes.

For more information, please contact Shawn O’Shea at (515) 635-3405.

Public Outreach

Iowa Department of Transportation / Snyder & Associates

Strategic Highway Safety Plan

Iowa’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP) public involvement process was designed to gather interdisciplinary input and diverse guidance through consultation with federal, state, local, and private sector safety stakeholders. The ultimate result of this effort was to create a process to gather a broad spectrum of professional input for the prioritization of resources when developing safety strategies at the State level.  Seven ‘Live Polls’ and five ‘Static Polls’ were conducted, thus totaling in the engagement of eight focus stakeholder groups, with over 600 individual stakeholders responding.

The methodology was based on a statewide examination of multidisciplinary interest groups that were willing to participate in a web-based pair-comparison poll, which could be conducted either in-person or online. The poll was designed to include pair comparison combinations among the ten key safety emphasis areas (e.g. should we focus more on older drivers or motorcycles; winter road conditions or distracted driving), resulting in 45 different combinations. These 45 couplets were utilized to make one-to-one comparisons of one emphasis area over another.

For more information, please contact Mindy Moore at (515) 964-2020.

Urban Design

Hubbell Realty /  RDG Planning & Design / Civil Design Advantage / City of Des Moines

Gray’s Station Master Plan

The Gray’s Station Master Plan envisions a neighborhood that extends downtown Des Moines by 84 acres through careful planning of a greyfield site.  Its design creates an opportunity for multiple generations to remain working and living in urban densities while providing a high quality of life, wellness opportunities, and living spaces that are adaptable to a variety of abilities.  The project defines diverse land use, open space, and mobility options while transforming the site’s role in the regional watershed from a current utilitarian baseline into a model for urban stormwater.

Like many downtowns in cities across America, Des Moines has seen a multi-family residential renaissance. Through the plan for Gray’s Station Neighborhood, the team addressed what is NEXT in the future of Des Moines and the future of our cities by creating a plan that is sustainable, delightful, and functional. The project is moving forward with its first phase as shown in context with downtown, Raccoon River, and Grays Lake Park

For more information, please contact Laura Kessel at (515) 288-3141.

Opportunity and Empowerment

City of Council Bluffs / J. Development Company / 712 Initiative

Sawyer Building

The Sawyer Building is located in the 100 block of West Broadway in downtown Council Bluffs.  Historically, the 100 Block was once at the epicenter of the City’s early commercial development, and served as an outfitting station and stop along the trail for migrants heading farther west. Over the years, the project site has been home to many businesses, primarily lumber yards. With respect to the site’s history, we named our project after a ‘Sawyer’ (a person that saws wood).

The Sawyer Building is a new construction infill development that provides 9,000 square feet of prime first floor commercial space along Broadway and 36 urban apartments. The apartments are a mix of one- and two-bedroom units, and of the 36 units, 10 are designed as row houses with access to Pierce Street. The Sawyer Building offers market-rate and affordable units, featuring Iowa Green Streets criteria, on-site parking, and modern amenities for a high quality mixed-use urban environment.  Of the 36 apartment units, 19 are designated for persons below 80% of the median family income.  This $8.2 million project included nine separate funding sources and was completed in December of 2015.

For more information, please contact Donald Gross at (402) 444-6866.

Planning Pioneers

The Omaha-Council Bluffs Metropolitan Area Planning Agency (MAPA)

The Omaha-Council Bluffs Metropolitan Area Planning Agency (MAPA) is a five county voluntary association of local governments created in 1967 under the terms of an inter-local agreement to provide a forum for coordinating local planning and development activities. As an organization of local governments, MAPA exists to help member governments address problems that are regional in scope and may cross jurisdictional boundaries. The MAPA region includes Douglas, Sarpy and Washington Counties in Nebraska and Pottawattamie and Mills Counties in Iowa.  MAPA has not previously submitted or received an Iowa APA award under the Planning Pioneers category.

For more information, please contact Dr. Robert Blair at (402) 554-2625.

Exemplary Student Project

The University of Iowa School of Urban and Regional Planning: Ben Curtis, Parker Just, Varsha Borde and Katie Gandhi

The Downtown Greenspace Plan (Sioux City)

Under the auspices of the Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities, students from the University of Iowa School of Urban and Regional Planning and in partnership with Downtown Partners, Sioux City; the City of Sioux City; and the Siouxland Interstate Metropolitan Planning Council; prepared a comprehensive analysis and set of recommendations for strategically increasing greenspace in downtown Sioux City.  The students began with a downtown area that was covered either by buildings or parking lots with a high degree, therefore, of impervious surface that had deleterious impacts on the area’s microclimate, hydrology, aesthetics, and overall attractiveness to downtown workers, residents, and visitors.

The students developed a 20 year plan for greenspace installation that would increase total greenspace downtown from eight to nearly 58 acres.  If this goal is realized and the students’ recommended locations are utilized for green space, the average distance for downtowners to walk to a green space will be reduced from 1.88 blocks to one-half block.

With a bold plan grounded in sound research, the students presented to the City of Sioux City an opportunity to seek funding to realize the plan’s objectives the City showed the plan to a potential donor and supporter of Sioux City quality of life initiatives who committed $500,000 to development and implementation of a landscape plan for a park across the street from the city’s new children’s museum, a site identified in the students’ plan.

For more information, please contact Charles Connerly at (319) 335-0039.

Daniel Burnham Award for a Comprehensive Plan

Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission

Keokuk Comprehensive Plan

In April 2016, the City of Keokuk decided that it needed to update its Comprehensive Plan. The last Comprehensive Plan was done in 1999. A ‘Vision Plan’ was developed in 2007 which is not an official City-approved document, and had been largely ineffective at guiding future decisions. The City partnered with the Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission (SEIRPC) to create its ‘first 21st Century Comprehensive Plan.

The plan is an exemplary document for similar sized Midwestern towns that were early ‘boom-bust’ cities and were left in major disinvestment with low quality of life and have been struggling to recover since.  Many such towns were negatively impacted by broader economic trends and are experiencing sizeable population loss, decreasing average household size, an aging population trend.  The plan sets to make desired outcomes a reality, influence public to focus on their community values, create a positive public perception of the community so they can proudly call it their home.

Since adoption, the Comprehensive Plan has proven to be helpful when seeking funding for projects. The City has applied for several grants, including State Recreational Trails (IDOT), Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (US DOT), and FY18 Site-Specific Brownfields Assessment Grant (US EPA) for an industrial site. The City was recently awarded the FY18 Brownfields Assessment Grant.

For more information, please contact Kansha Tiwari at (319) 753-4312.

Awards Announcement

The results of the 2018 APA-Iowa Awards were officially announced at the luncheon Awards Reception during the 2018 APA-IA Conference, held from October 17 - 19, 2018 in Council Bluffs, Iowa.


About APA-Iowa
The American Planning Association-Iowa Chapter provides leadership in the development of vital communities by advocating excellence in community planning, promoting education and citizen empowerment, and providing the tools and support necessary to meet the challenges of growth and change.  APA-Iowa members consist of planners and other professionals involved in the development and sustainability of Iowa communities.