Model Communities

Downtown Resource Center

Connecting Leaders to Share Successful Practices

Iowa communities are approaching community development in innovative, forward-thinking ways. The Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) launched the Model Communities program to highlight these great case studies as a way of sharing best practices that can be transferrable and replicable to other Iowa communities. 

Burlington: Building Facade Improvements

Model Communities: Burlington

Downtown Burlington has a wealth of historic architecture. Nearly the entire downtown is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Years of disinvestment and remuddling gave the street a rundown appearance. The city of Burlington improved 15 facades and storefronts in a three-block area. At the same time as the façade project, Downtown Partners, Inc. established a blade sign grant program used by many businesses and worked with the city on revamping the encroachment policy to encourage sidewalk café seating. Burlington is placing added emphasis on abating downtown property nuisances like peeling paint or broken windows to encourage property upkeep and protect investment.

Elkader: 21st Century Downtown Retail

Model Communities: Elkader

Main Street Elkader is home to an exceptional variety of upscale shopping for a rural Iowa town. From boutiques with fashionable clothing and accessories to vintage and repurposed treasures or supplies for your next home improvement project, shoppers can find a little bit of everything at more than 20 independently owned downtown retail businesses. Today, downtown retailers host several retail promotional events. A small group of original retailers collaborated to get many of these events started and additional participation by new businesses has helped establish these regular retail events that draw large numbers of out-of-town visitors. Retail support efforts include a revolving loan fund, awards program recognizing and celebrating new businesses, communication with and technical assistance for businesses, and funding to promote Elkader as a retail destination.

Storm Lake: Stormwater Management

Model Communities: Storm Lake

Several external factors influenced Storm Lake’s shift in thinking towards stormwater management. Four presidentially declared disasters, due to flooding, occurred within the span of seven years. Flooding caused over $51 million in personal and public property damages. The MS4 (Municipal Separate Stormwater Sewer System) designation from the Clean Water Act jumpstarted changes in managing and regulating the flow of pollutants and sediment into the lake. In addition, the city has experienced tremendous growth in the past 10 years, which can create more non-pervious surfaces and issues linked to water management. Due to these factors and others, stormwater management and flood mitigation quickly rocketed to the top of Storm Lake’s priority list. '

Storm Lake’s priorities and goals included improving water quality through the integration and management of stormwater, wastewater and water supply using green infrastructure. In April 2015, the city completed a Green Infrastructure Plan.

Woodbine: Community Housing Development

In the early 2000s, Woodbine’s largest employer, Woodbine Manufacturing, planned to expand and add employees. Community leaders recognized the need to improve the housing inventory to support industrial growth and stabilize leaking school enrollments. A city housing study was commissioned and used to form an improvement plan. At that time, most of Woodbine’s housing stock was comprised of single-family homes built before 1940. A plan that included varying price points and housing types to meet income levels and other demographics was a priority and included downtown upper-story housing, senior housing, new duplexes and triplexes, a high school construction trades program, and housing rehabilitation assistance.

For more information, contact:

Jeff Geerts