Municipal “Green Streets” Redevelopment Project Wins 2015 Iowa ASLA Award

Sketch of West Union, Iowa downtown green pilot project. Posted by Heidi Schwartz

Demonstrating an environmentally conscious approach to community redevelopment, a completed “green” streetscape design in the city of West Union, IA has been recognized with an award from the American Society of Landscape Architects Iowa Chapter. Each year, the professional association honors the best in landscape architecture from across the state. The West Union Green Streets Pilot Project by Conservation Design Forum was one of six projects in Iowa to be recognized in the competition.

Conservation Design Forum, the lead designers on the project, worked with the Iowa Department of Economic Development, local government officials, community organizations and residents to formulate a new vision for West Union’s downtown district. The new streetscape concepts designed by CDF employed measures to: boost walkability, enhance traffic safety at intersections, encourage bike traffic, increase planting areas, capture and treat rainwater, provide new activity areas and seating, upgrade infrastructure, and create a plaza on the courthouse lawn for public events. In addition, an innovative district-wide geothermal heating and cooling system was installed for the entire downtown area with 200 wells located under the courthouse lawn.

Green innovations like porous paving for streets and sidewalks, combined with 36,000 square feet of rain gardens aim to capture and retain 95% of stormwater that falls within the downtown district, relieving the burden on the municipal storm sewer system and detaining urban pollutants from reaching streams and other waterways.

In addition to the streetscape project which was completed in 2013, the City just completed the renovation of 10 historic building facades within the downtown area and added 12 new second floor affordable housing units in three historic buildings.

The West Union “Green Streets” Pilot Project, which began in 2008 was funded through a partnership of local, state and federal agencies. It now serves as a sustainability focused redevelopment model for towns and cities across the Midwest looking to resolve issues of aging infrastructure while at the same time revitalize their downtown business districts.

In 2015, the Iowa Economic Development Authority compiled information on the impact that the “Green Streets” downtown redevelopment project has had on the community of just 2,500 residents. The project summary reports that since the start of the project:

  • 12 new businesses opened
  • 17 buildings obtained new ownership
  • 4 new buildings have been constructed
  • 1 building was expanded
  • 11 interiors were improved