Thursday, November 30, 2023
Group representatives receiving the award, including Emani Brinkman, Farnaz Fatahi, and Sepehr Yadollahi.

A group of recent planning graduates has received the Iowa Chapter of the American Planning Association’s Exemplary Student Project Award for the City of Clinton’s Liberty Square Master Plan. The award recognizes undergraduate or graduate student projects and research that represents a professional level of work that contributes to advances in the field of planning.

The 2023 SPPA graduates who created this innovative plan as students are Emani Brinkman, Brady Hill, and Sepehr Yadollahi. Their group also included students from the Sustainable Development program: Emma Duncan, Connor Johson, and Steven Stilianos, as well as engineering student Maria Ilioukhov. Current planning student Farnaz Fatahi lent her talent as the design specialist.

The master plan served as their capstone project and was completed over two semesters. The project was made possible by the Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities which matches the needs of communities in Iowa with master's students in the School of Planning and Public Affairs, giving them hands-on professional experience.

The City of Clinton is located on Iowa’s eastern border along the Mississippi River and with Highway 30 running along the southern part of the city. Liberty Square is a narrow stretch of primarily city-owned property that runs between and adjacent to the split four lanes of Highway 30. The city developed an overlay zone for the Liberty Square District in 2002, with land use designs for commercial and small manufacturing. After nearly two decades without significant development, city officials wanted to evaluate and update the previous land use plans and ordinances for new uses and investment on the property.

The master plan includes an assessment of sustainability dimensions of the project and incorporates sustainable development concepts. Additionally, it outlines strategic actions, ordinances, and funding mechanisms for achieving the vision for the district. The students conducted multiple community engagement events, collected feedback, and sought to apply the community input to the planning designs. They gave a final presentation all stakeholders. The plan is dynamic and covers a range of issues: transportation planning and infrastructure, pedestrian and bicycle amenities, utility infrastructure, water management, open space, and biodiversity. One potential challenge for use and development of Liberty Square was the sprawling ADM bioprocessing facility that runs parallel to the property, creating heavy volumes of truck traffic, obscuring the Mississippi River, and emitting pungent odors on occasion.

See the planning team's full final report and a 3D video of how their recommended transportation redesign would look with actual traffic patterns on the Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities' website.