Thursday, November 15, 2018

A number of University of Iowa urban planning alums, six in fact, were recently presented with awards at the 2018 Iowa Chapter of the American Planning Association conference in Council Bluffs, Iowa. One of the recipients, Sam Sturtz (2015), was part of a group at the Iowa Department of Transportation who received the “Public Outreach Award” for the public stakeholder component of the Iowa Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP).

According to the press release, Iowa’s 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.

Alum Akanksha Tiwari (2017), received the “Daniel Burnham Award for a Comprehensive Plan” which was presented to Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission. The award recognized her work on the Keokuk, Iowa, Comprehensive Plan. The press release indicates that in April 2016, the City of Keokuk decided 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.

The “Outstanding Student Project Award” was given to four alums, Varsha Borde, Ben Curtis, Katie Gandhi, and Parker Just, for their 2016 Field Problems project, “The Downtown Greenspaces Plan,” in downtown Sioux City (supervised by Professor Lucie Laurian and Assistant Professor Scott Spak).

Additionally, current student Bogdan Kapatsila received second place in the student poster contest for his submission titled, “Cedar Rapids: Impact of 2008 Flood on Housing Prices." 

Pictured are recipients of the Daniel Burnham Award, from Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission. Left to right are Steven Stransky, alum Akansha Tiwari and Iowa APA President (and alum) Dylan Mullenix presenting the award.