Tuesday, December 15, 2015

From November 3rd-6th, second-year Urban and Regional Planning student, Samantha Wittrock, participated in the annual Design Residency program at RDG Planning and Design, in downtown Des Moines, Iowa. During this program, residents from nine different Midwestern universities and various disciplines came together to develop a vision, strategies, and projects for Des Moines’ Iowa Convention and Entertainment Reinvestment District.

This year’s residency, titled “Urban Alchemy,” focused on the different elements that come together to create vibrant, healthy, and resilient downtown districts. The program began with a tour and presentations from developers, local stakeholders, and representatives from communities that have undergone downtown transformations. Through these panels and presentations, residents were able to learn more about the history and development patterns in Des Moines and about elements of successful downtown districts.

Based on the information provided by these speakers, the residents then participated in facilitated work sessions to develop a project that would incorporate new and proposed development projects and create an identity for the city of Des Moines. Staff from RDG Planning and Design facilitated the creative process that led residents to develop a vision surrounding Des Moines’ and Iowa’s agrarian roots and current local foods culture. Each of the residents was able to contribute to the project using their unique skill set and perspective on urban design.

The Residency concluded with a community presentation of the project that had been developed, which included a local foods boulevard, green roofs, and communities of tiny houses. Community members seemed excited and interested to learn more about the project and residents were able to leave the program having seen something truly transformative happen with their project.

Thinking back on her experience, Samantha said, “It was phenomenal to see how much we were able to accomplish in three short days. This experience highlighted how working across disciplines can push everyone outside of their normal frame of thinking to come up with an incredible end product. I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to participate in this program and to have been a part of such a dynamic, hard-working team.”