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Rewarding Sustainability, "Smart Growth" in Iowa Communities

River Place in Cedar Falls won top honors for a new residential project in the Best Development Awards presented by 1000 Friends of Iowa. (River Place)
River Place in Cedar Falls won top honors for a new residential project in the Best Development Awards presented by 1000 Friends of Iowa. (River Place)
March 15, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa - Iowans working toward sustainable development and community improvement are being honored for it.

The "Best Development Awards" were started in 2001 as a way to reward individuals and communities who were doing a good job incorporating smart growth and sustainable development in projects. Kari Carney, who heads 1000 Friends of Iowa, the group that sponsors the awards, said it's important to recognize those who are thinking about how their projects fit into the overall life of their communities.

"It's about changing the way we think about development," she said, "in a way that's good for everybody in the community, and good for our environment and sustainability in the long terms."

She said the projects also make economic sense in the long run, making communities more vibrant and sustainable. Awards are presented in seven categories, ranging from new residential projects to mixed-use facilities and restored commercial properties.

Carney said the sustainable-development movement has gained popularity.

"We're seeing more and more projects happening around the state, and this year, we had a record number of projects apply," she said. "I think we tend to think that these are mostly happening in urban areas, but there's an awful lot of rural communities who are doing it, too."

Projects in communities ranging in size from Winterset and Glidden to Cedar Rapids and Davenport were recognized this year.

She said the entries are evaluated not only on their environmental sustainability, but on the project's ability to be a model that encourages others.

"We wanted to make sure that folks who were making an effort to do things right were getting recognized, as a way to help encourage more folks to want to try to look at these projects, and do these types of projects as well," she said.

The full list of the award-winners is on the 1000 Friends of Iowa website. Winning projects are in Ames, Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Davenport, Elkader, Glidden, Manning, Monona, Sioux City and Winterset.

Jeff Stein, Public News Service - IA