Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Solon, Iowa (home of the famous Beef Days) recently received an Iowa Living Roadways grant to improve its Main Street, and the City is working with Field Problems students to develop a comprehensive plan to revitalize its downtown. Residents are closely involved in the development of the plan, through household surveys, visual preference surveys, and participation in small group meetings. The plan will incorporate design, economic development, and street-scape improvements recommended by previous consultants, along with historic preservation, housing, land use and transportation strategies. Derek Lord, Aaron DeJong, Sreyoshi Chakraborty, David Dunn, and Kent Ralston want their plan to provide a practical, hands-on guide to implementation.

Iowa City was recently voted a top ten retirement community, but the Johnson County Consortium on Successful Aging believes there is room for improvement. Kristen Diehl and Erin North are identifying “best practices” that other communities have used to enhance life for seniors, and will be holding a series of focus groups with developers and local transportation professionals to test out the feasibility of their recommendations. They will be focusing on housing and transportation, the issues the Consortium identified as priorities.

Fairfield, Iowa completed a ten year community-wide strategic plan in 2003; improving trails was identified as one of the key strategic investments the community needed to advance both health and safety goals. A group of five students (Jeff Banks, Justin Wyse, Adam Galluzzo, Jeff Wiggins, and Dan Nelson) are working to maximize public involvement in the trailways plan, identify a comprehensive network of links, develop a funding strategy, and recommend themed routes and coherent signage to attract users. An advisory committee composed of key local stakeholders will guide the project, and a project website (http://myweb.uiowa.edu/agalluzz/) will both collect survey responses and keep residents informed. Public meetings and a design charrette will supplement the web-based input.

The final community that students are serving is much closer to home. You may remember University Heights as the small neighborhood completely surrounded by Iowa City, with little room to grow. However, property values have increased rapidly in the city, given its proximity to campus, and growth (of the tear-down-and-replace variety) is indeed an issue, along with traffic. However, rezoning discussions stalled when Councilors realized University Heights has no Comprehensive Plan. Matt Blomstrom, Andy Greenlee, C. Shaa Hudson and Michaela Jennings are developing the community’s first Comprehensive Plan, including many hours of public meetings, key-informant interviews, and an interactive website (http://myweb.uiowa.edu/ajgreenl/) where residents can post comments.