Time to nominate Iowa's "best development" projects

The non-profit organization 1000 Friends of Iowa is accepting nominations for the 2011 Best Development Awards until early August. These awards recognize projects that incorporate “smart growth” principles and sustainable practices, which are good for local economies, the environment, and quality of life. The awards cover six categories: new residential, renovated residential, new civic or commercial, renovated civic or commercial, mixed-use, and leadership.

Anyone can nominate a project for a best development award. The project should be completed, not still in the planning stage. You can download the nomination form here. After the jump I’ve posted more details on the criteria judges will consider when evaluating projects. I’m active with 1000 Friends of Iowa, but I have never been involved in selecting the Best Development Award winners.

Mixed-use projects incorporate residential and business space, either in the same building or in a walkable neighborhood. The leadership award can apply to a city as well as to a developer. For instance, the city of Dubuque won leadership awards for its Unified Development Code (2010) and for its Historic Millwork District Master Plan (2008). The city of Iowa City won the 2009 leadership award for its newly-adopted Subdivision Code.

To give you a sense of different types of projects that qualify as “best developments”, I’ve posted information below about the 2010 winning projects in Des Moines, Dubuque, Ladora, Iowa City, and Davenport. The city of Dubuque and the Lakes Community Land Trust in Spirit Lake shared last year’s leadership award.

Click here for photos and information about the 2009 Best Development Award winners: the Marshalltown Public Library (new commercial/civic), Court Avenue Lofts in Des Moines (new residential), Durrant Building in Dubuque (renovated commercial/civic), Westfield Avenue Lofts in Waterloo (renovated residential), Plaza Towers in Iowa City (mixed use), and the Historic Millwork District Master Plan in Dubuque (leadership).

Projects in Davenport, Dubuque, Sioux City, Marion, West Des Moines and Iowa City won Best Development Awards in 2008. The ISU Design West building in Sioux City is one of the best Iowa redevelopment projects I’ve ever seen.

Projects in Dubuque, Elkader, Davenport, Lake Park (near Spirit Lake) and the City of Okoboji won Best Development Awards in 2007. Projects in Conrad, Central City, Cedar Rapids, Waterloo and Des Moines won Best Development Awards in 2006.

The 2005 award-winners were Iowa City’s Peninsula neighborhood, the Van Allen building in Clinton, the America’s River Project in Dubuque and the Strand Theater in Grinnell.

On a related note, I was disturbed but not surprised to learn that the House Republican-backed 2012 appropriations bill covering the Environmental Protection Agency would eliminate funding for all of the EPA’s smart growth programs. The House has already voted on some amendments to that legislation and will likely pass the bill this week.

From 1000 Friends of Iowa:

Projects will be reviewed and awards granted based upon the project fulfilling the objectives of Smart Growth as defined below. You may also read the Principles of Smart Growth by clicking here.

Smart growth is the efficient use of our resources to develop sustainable communities that provide a high quality of life.

Smart growth efficiently utilizes our tax dollars and private investments through. . .

   * Reinvesting in existing communities that have experienced decline. This includes rehabilitation and reuse of older buildings and in-fill development.

   * Focusing new development around walkable, mixed-use town centers with a balance of housing and jobs.

   * Coordinating the provision of utilities and public services amongst local jurisdictions in a metropolitan region.

Smart growth is sustainable because it. . .

   * Distributes affordable housing throughout the region to improve access to employment opportunities and avoid concentrations of poverty.

   * Utilizes green building practices to conserve energy.

   * Attracts new business and industry, which increasingly consider quality of life factors when selecting communities in which to locate or expand.

   * Balances urban expansion with the protection of agricultural land and natural areas.

   * Empowers citizens to take responsibility for their community and become actively involved in the planning process.

   * Recognizes the interdependence of the social, natural and built environments.

   * Considers the impact of development on future generations.

Smart growth provides a high quality of life by . . .

   * Creating a framework to build community and establish a sense of place.

   * Providing walkable, mixed-use community centers that include civic, commercial and residential uses.

   * Offering residents a variety of choices in housing options and transportation modes.

   * Establishing urban green spaces and protecting environmentally sensitive areas from inappropriate development.

   * Engaging residents in a more active, healthy lifestyle.

   * Reducing health threats from air and water pollution.

2010 Best Development Award winners:

New Residential: The Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity, Des Moines

The Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity was selected to receive the award for Best New Residential due to their demonstration of increased energy efficiency and use of environmentally sustainable building products in the construction of affordable homes, one of which achieved a LEED Silver certification. In addition to showing it is possible to build both affordably and sustainably, they strive to build attractive homes that complement the character of the surrounding neighborhood.

Renovated Commercial/Civic: The Ladora Bank Bistro in Ladora and The Hotel Julien in Dubuque

The Ladora Bank Bistro was selected to receive the award for Best Renovated Commercial/Civic in a small community because the project is an excellent example of contributing to small town revitalization, historic re-use, and sustainable community development.  

The Hotel Julien Dubuque was selected to receive the award for Best Renovated and Commercial/Civic in a large community because the beauty and authenticity of this historic rehabilitation project showcases how such rehabilitation can revitalize and sustain a downtown area.

Renovated Residential: UniverCity Neighborhood Partnership’s Affordable Homeownership Program, Iowa City

The UniverCity Neighborhood Partnership’s Affordable Homeownership Program was selected to receive the award for Best Renovated Residential because the project is innovative and meets almost all of the smart growth criteria. The project is an excellent example of revitalizing existing neighborhoods and providing affordable homeownership in locations close to employment.

Mixed Use: The Hotel Blackhawk, Davenport

The Hotel Blackhawk redevelopment was selected to receive the award for Best Mixed Use due to their success at transforming a National Historic Landmark into a vibrant mixed-use facility that has enhanced the quality of life in Davenport.

Leadership: City of Dubuque, Dubuque and Lakes Community Land Trust, Spirit Lake

The City of Dubuque was selected to receive the award for Leadership in a large community because their recently adopted Unified Development Code promotes best practices in sustainable development and will serve as a model for other cities in Iowa.

The Lakes Community Land Trust was selected to receive the award for Leadership in a small community because of the broad spectrum of programs and projects it promotes in the community in its effort to achieve social equality, affordable housing, local food production and revitalization of existing towns and neighborhoods.

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