Thursday, December 13, 2018

Jocelyn Borjas, second-year URP student, took on an internship this past summer in the small town of Columbus Junction, IA (population around 1,900). She was the third URP student to partner with the town’s Community Development Center in the last three years. Previous interns, Will Mackaman in the summer of 2017 and Robby Caudill in the summer of 2016, also assisted with meeting the town’s planning needs.

Jocelyn’s projects were varied and included work related to housing planning and community outreach while considering the town’s unique population. A meat processing facility is located in Columbus Junction which draws in people with diverse backgrounds, ranging from Latinos to the Chin ethnic group from Myanmar (Burma).

Jocelyn’s main planning activity focused on assisting three community members in the creation of Columbus Properties, LLC. The organization’s current goal is to develop the New Heritage Village neighborhood. She worked closely with the team to further develop Phase Two. Their strategy is to incorporate single-family homes with multi-family homes to create a true mixed-use residential area and experience. The houses surround a church at the center of the neighborhood, whose property extends to open areas, including a soccer field for public use which may encourage community interaction.

The current neighborhood character represents a diverse mix of the greater Columbus Junction community with ranges in age, ethnicity, and class. The audience she and the Columbus Properties group attempted to target for the residential mixed-use development/subdivision are teachers that teach locally but may commute from outside the town, meat processing workers and refugees who may be living in tight quarters or in trailer parks, older residents from surrounding rural areas that need to be closer to city services, and young families who are not afraid of commuting  to a larger city and would benefit from living in Louisa County tax districts.

To help make the real estate development organization a success, Jocelyn created a website for the organization (including structure, content, and images of the current houses and empty lots for the media gallery), social media accounts, an email account, and a business bank account. She additionally organized meetings with all of the LLC members to discuss branding components. The meetings resulted in the creation of a mission statement, and with help from a graphic designer, a logo, a neighborhood marker or pillar, and a subdivision development sign.

Community development in Columbus Junction is all about building relationships to improve the quality of life for residents, and to encourage local leadership development. The Community Development Center has a big responsibility to engage with outsiders and create a safe place to have meaningful conversations. Urban and Regional Planning graduate student interns have contributed to the community’s development by meeting the planning needs of this diverse town.

Photo: Jocelyn (left) accepting $2000 check awarded as a result of mini grant she wrote. Funds will go to update trash cans and recycling receptacles at the Swinging Bridge Park in Columbus Junction. Pictured with her are Bev Nielsen and Twyla Peters of the Columbus Junction Parks and Recreation Committee.