2017 APA-IA Award Winners!

Posted December 31, 1969

Each year, the Iowa Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA-Iowa) asks its members to nominate plans, projects, and individuals deserving recognition by the professional organization.  Award nominees can be recognized in nineteen categories ranging from grassroots initiatives to distinguished leadership.  Based on an independent review by a jury of professional planners from the Nebraska Chapter of the APA, fifteen nominees have been selected to receive APA-Iowa Awards in 2017.  Descriptions of these awards, taken from their applications, can be found below. 


Best Practice

Des Moines Area MPO

Iowa Data Bike

The Iowa Data Bike – a bike-based data-collection vehicle – is an innovative new planning tool using state-of-the-art methods that will guide the long-term maintenance of the more than 600 miles of paved trails in central Iowa, helping ensure that the value of the trails lasts for generations to come.


Until now, there has been a void of information for local governments to make informed decisions about which trails will need maintenance and when they’ll need to budget for those maintenance projects. Unlike the street network, for which pavement-condition data are regularly collected, there were no pavement-condition data being collected for the paved trail network. Nor was there a means for collecting trail pavement-condition data, as the equipment used on roadways is too large and requires too high of speeds to be used on trails.


This spring, the Des Moines Area MPO unveiled the Iowa Data Bike as a proof-of-concept initiative to address this need. The Data Bike combines several recent technology advancements – an electric cargo bike, an iPhone, with a specialized app to measure pavement conditions, a GoPro camera, and a Gear 360 camera – to create a new bike-base data-collection vehicle.

For more information please contact Gunnar Olson at (515) 334-0075.


Environmental Planning

City of Clive / RDG Planning and Design

Clive Greenbelt Master Plan

The Clive Greenbelt Master Plan amplifies Clive’s natural feature as a recreation center and regional resource. Public engagement included online surveys, on-trail “tweet boxes”, intercept interviews along the trail, participation during 2015 Clive Festival, public meetings, and household surveys. Through intense public engagement and scientific analysis, the plan creates planning goals for the city to continue to leverage positive outcomes from the Clive Greenbelt. These goals focused on improving habitat, stormwater management, trail connectivity, public health, trail access, economic redevelopment, and policy.


Implementing the plan will result in over 1500 jobs, generate $1million in fiscal revenue, and positively impact the parks and recreation operations and spending. When fully realized, the public health benefits are estimated to save each citizen within the city of Clive over $600 in medical costs.

For more information, please contact Cory Scott at (515) 288-3141.


Innovation in Economic Planning and Development

City of Fort Dodge / Snyder & Associates, Inc.

Northwest River District Revitalization Plan

The City of Fort Dodge received a grant and numerous sponsorships from local businesses totaling $65,000 through the America’s Best Communities contest to develop a revitalization plan for a portion of the city that is comprised of poorly mixed land uses, represents approximately 5.3% of the overall population, has a population base with an average age that’s nearly 8 years older, an unemployment rate 2% greater, and a mean household income of 81.7% relative to the rest of the community. This area of Fort Dodge has limited purchasing power, dilapidated infrastructure, and blighted properties throughout the district. The area is located in the northwest portion of Fort Dodge and is bordered by the Des Moines River to the east, Lizard Creek to the south, and US Highway 169 to the west. One direct roadway link exists via a bridge over the Des Moines River from this area to the rest of Fort Dodge. This area of town carries a negative perception as the community regarded this area as an eye sore and full of underprivileged people. The actions stemming from plan are changing that perception and is marking a direct path toward self-improvement and hope for its citizens.

For more information, please contact Wade Greiman at (515) 964-2020.



Des Moines Area MPO

Des Moines Metro Complete Streets Initiative

The Complete Streets Initiative was a multi-year campaign focused on promoting the adoption of local complete streets policies throughout the region, and then providing the needed support and tools to fully implement these policies in a meaningful way. To do this, the MPO developed a model policy, provided a series of presentations on the contexts of complete streets, and went out to individual communities to work with chambers of commerce, parks and recreation boards, planning and zoning boards, and city councils to educate and collaborate on bringing contextually-adapted complete street policies to vote with community-wide support. As policies were adopted, the MPO then worked with city staffs to develop

tools for community engagement and outreach, a communications strategy, and implementation process.


The Complete Streets Initiative resulted in six new complete streets policies adopted, two current policies under review for update, and two new policies in development at city councils. The Complete Streets Mini-Grant Program funded six innovative projects including the region’s first bicycle corral and first parklet.

For more information, please contact Gunnar Olson at (515) 334-0075.



City of Clear Lake / RDG Planning and Design

The Downtown Clear Lake Plan

The Downtown Clear Lake Plan is a visionary yet practical program for the development of the traditional center of this lakeside community of 7,700. The test of a good plan is its ability to bring about positive reactions in the private market – to set productive forces in motion and to have the flexibility to guide projects that the plan may not have anticipated. Clear Lake made major progress within a year of the plan’s adoption with residential redevelopment of the former Clear Lake Bakery site, and the energy continued.


The plan’s success and local commitment stimulated the design and implementation for the lakefront, and the momentum furthered improvements to connecting neighborhoods. Clear Lake’s downtown plan is a case study for best practices that should be celebrated and recognized for successful small-town planning in America.

For more information, please contact Cory Scott at (515) 288-3141.


Public Outreach

City of Dubuque / Teska Associates, Inc.

Imagine Dubuque Community Engagement Plan

The Imagine Dubuque Community Engagement Plan was the public outreach campaign for the

City of Dubuque’s new Comprehensive Plan. The City has a long tradition of community planning and outreach, but past efforts fell short of goals for diverse engagement. It was imperative to City leadership and planners that the process of developing the new Comprehensive Plan be inclusive and representative of the community. Imagine Dubuque included broad community outreach and made extensive use of traditional methods and technology to expand public participation in planning. Imagine Dubuque produced over 12,500 ideas from all sectors of Dubuque.


Print and online promotion included distribution of project cards, idea postcards and posters

in local businesses and restaurants. Educational pop-up banners, mobile idea boards, and idea boxes were displayed at area businesses, institutions, and events, including library, Farmers Market, and schools. Transit banners with details about the project website and mobile app were installed on Jule buses. The project website and app integrated ‘opt-in’ emails and push notifications ensuring subscribers would receive project news. Interactive tools were built into both interfaces that allowed users to take quick polls, share ideas, comments, project feedback, and even upload photos.

For more information, please contact Laura Carstens at (563) 589-4210.


Urban Design

Des Moines Area MPO

Greater Des Moines Water Trails & Greenways Plan

The Greater Des Moines Water Trails and Greenways Master Plan was completed in November 2016 and envisions an abundant network of “water trails” for 150 miles of the Greater Des Moines’ creeks and rivers. The plan calls for improving these recreational corridors for paddling, boating, tubing, and hiking, as well as the establishment of greenways, floodplain protection, and improved habitat.


Notably, the plan calls for the mitigation of two low-head dams on the Des Moines River in downtown Des Moines – labeled by one community leader as “death machines” due to several fatalities. The dams would be replaced with a series of drops spaced over approximately one mile. Among other benefits, the new configuration would retain a pool of water upstream to preserve existing uses such as boating and rowing, as well as introduce new uses including beginner- and expert-level paddling and tubing on calm-water and whitewater channels through downtown Des Moines.

For more information, please contact Gunnar Olson at (515) 334-0075.


Communications Initiative

Snyder & Associates, Inc.

Prudent Scofflaws? Responsibility Roulette at Trail/Roadway Intersections

The “Prudent Scofflaws” presentation uses a mock city council session to discuss the intricacies of whether or not bicyclists should be able to yield at stop signs rather than come to a complete stop. This issue is presented from three different perspectives: the attorney, the engineer, and the planner. The planner comes last in the presentation, as she brings together the different viewpoints and makes a recommendation. The presentation promotes understanding of the role of planning in this multifaceted discussion in a creative and engaging manner. The cyclists may be “prudent,” carefully rolling through stop signs; or they may be seen as a privileged “scofflaw,” ignoring rules that all others must follow.


“Prudent Scofflaws” was presented at the 2016 APA Iowa Conference, 2017 Iowa Bike Summit,

and the 2017 Upper Midwest Active Transportation Conference. The planning team intends to continue the “Prudent Scofflaws” tour and develop a white paper addressing the various issues in the future.

For more information, please contact Mindy Moore at (515) 964-2020.


Grassroots Initiative

Unity Point Health – Des Moines – Lutheran Hospital / ISU Community Food Systems Program

Unity Point Health Edible Landscape and Urban Orchard

The Lutheran Hospital edible landscape and community orchard includes a dwarf apple tree orchard, raised bed garden, and will soon include a pollinator habitat on hospital grounds. This is a one of a kind project in Iowa, and was developed within the Community Food Systems Program that started in 2014 in partnership with Eat Greater Des Moines.


The primary objective was to develop an initiative that would promote food access and education in the Viva East Bank neighborhood of Des Moines. This concept was implemented in the spring of 2017, with the community orchard ground breaking and planting. Throughout the process, the project brought together over a dozen partners in the development and planning of the edible landscape, and over 100 individuals attended the ground-breaking event. This included students from Carver Elementary, to plant the first trees on Earth Day. This innovative project has evolved into a successful and unique program due to collaborations with Unity Point-Lutheran Hospital, City of Des Moines, Viva East Bank, Iowa State University Community Design Lab, Trees Forever, and funding from Wellmark. For more information, please contact Courtney Long at (515) 460-3227.


Planning Agency

The Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO)

The Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is well known among the region’s business and government leaders, media outlets and engaged citizens as an innovative and impactful player in Greater Des Moines (DSM), coordinating regional stakeholders, moving big ideas toward implementation and improving the community. Over the last several years, the MPO has moved from a little-known agency to a major player in numerous innovative, regional endeavors.


Examples of recent efforts include the development of The Tomorrow Plan and the Greater Des Moines Water Trails and Greenways Plan, creating the Iowa Data Bike and the Container Locator website, and having staff and board members recognized for their leadership both in the Des Moines metro area and nationally. For more information, please contact Gunnar Olson at (515) 334-0075.


Daniel Burnham Award for a Comprehensive Plan

City of Hiawatha / MSA Professional Services

Hiawatha Comprehensive Plan

The City of Hiawatha, Iowa (pop. 7,024) is the perfect community with a small town feel that allows residents to commute easily to work within the Cedar Rapids metro area. While several neighboring metropolitan cities were creating external pressures, and population continued to grow by eight percent from 2000 to 2010, the community’s vision of future growth and annexation was diminishing. In 2015, the City issued a Request for Proposal for planning services; MSA Professional Services (MSA) was selected to assist the City with their comprehensive plan update which hadn’t been updated since 2009. Throughout the planning process, MSA updated demographics and community stats, revised goals, created an implementation strategy, readdressed future land use and growth areas, and assisted Hiawatha to define their community character and create a town center to thrive as the heart of their growing community.


The comprehensive plan process emphasized 10 priority areas in which the community sought to focus future efforts, including: transportation, housing, community character, economic development, public infrastructure and utilities, agriculture and natural resources, community facilities, hazards, intergovernmental collaboration and quality of life. This project began March 2016 and was energetically adopted by the City Council December 2016. For more information, please contact Shawn O’Shea at (515) 635-3405.


Planning Advocate – Engaged Citizen

Kent Sovern

State Director of AARP Iowa

Kent Sovern is the State Director of AARP Iowa, which supports over 375,000 AARP members. Kent’s passion for people and their experiences are largely influenced by the built environment. While advocating for policy improvements on the state-level, Kent campaigns around Iowa promoting better neighborhood design for people of all ages, particularly the Greater Des Moines Age-Friendly City Initiative. He actively creates partnerships between people in healthcare, planners, architects, developers, students and teachers, elected and appointed officials, and national experts related to all of these fields.


Kent’s past leadership roles that also relate to advocating for planning the built environment include being the Executive Director of the Des Moines Higher Education Collaborative, serving as Senior Vice President of Government and International Relations at the Greater Des Moines Partnership, and spearheading the Iowa Parks Foundation as their Executive Director in 2008. Also, Kent served as the Vice-Chair on the Plan and Zoning Committee for the City of Des Moines for 12 years.  


Planning Advocate – Elected or Appointed Official

Representative Andy McKean

Iowa House District 58

Andy McKean, from Anamosa, is on the economic growth, environmental protection, and local government committees.  Along with others, Representative McKean introduced a bill last session to help fund the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Fund, which ultimately failed, and has a voting record that supports issues related to planning statewide. Examples include voting against the legalization of fireworks and limiting collective bargaining bills.


Andy McKean is in his eighth term in the Iowa House, after previously serving in the House from 1978 to 1992 and in the Senate from 1993 to 2003.  He also served as a Jones County Supervisor from 2003 to 2011, and was appointed to the Iowa Public Information Board by Governor Branstad in 2012, serving until his return to the Legislature for the 87th General Assembly.


Andy earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from the State University of New York – Oneonta, his master’s degree in community planning from the University of Rhode Island, and his Juris Doctor from the University of Iowa College of Law.  In addition to his public service, Andy practiced law in Anamosa for 35 years, retiring in 2015.  He and his wife also operated the Shaw House Bed and Breakfast in Anamosa for 14 years. Andy and his wife, Connie, have been married for 34 years.  They are the parents of four adult children and have one granddaughter. 


Planning Advocate – Elected or Appointed Official

Rick Tollakson

Steering Committee Chair of the Greater Des Moines Water Trails and Greenways Plan

Des Moines, Iowa, was founded as a river town, though its historic origins are today easily overlooked amid fears of flooding and poor water quality. But today Greater Des Moines is on course to be a river town once again, thanks in large part to the time and leadership of Rick Tollakson.

While there were many talented and committed people involved in the planning process, Rick Tollakson stood out for his exemplary leadership and devotion of time to the project. He went far above and beyond the basic commitment of overseeing the monthly meetings. Examples include:

  • He joined MPO staff for presentations on the project to the City Councils and Boards of Supervisors for the 16 cities and three counties in the planning area, as well as other interested groups;
  • He took multiple stakeholders, including several elected officials, on paddling trips in order to increase their buy-in for the project;
  • He led a group of stakeholders on a tour of Iowa cities that had mitigated low-head dams and converted them into whitewater tourist destinations;
  • He engaged other community and business leaders about the future need to raise funds for the implementation of this project;
  • He personally attended all of the public-engagement meetings with the public held throughout the region;
  • He took it upon himself to explore the rivers and creeks covered by the plan during his personal time;
  • He regularly found himself getting pulled into conversations about water trails when he was out in the public;

He has become a public, visible evangelist for water trails – bringing up the issue at multiple public forums and writing a guest editorial for The Des Moines Register calling water trails “the single most significant economic development strategy that the region can pursue right now.” Rick Tollakson is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Des-Moines-based Hubbell Realty Company, where he is responsible for the company’s strategic operations and multiple subsidiaries, including land and building development, commercial asset and property management, Hubbell Apartment Living, CBRE/Hubbell Commercial, Hubbell Homes and Hubbell Construction Services. Rick joined Hubbell Realty Company in 1984 and was promoted to President and CEO in 2004. In 2016, Tollakson was named Commercial Real Estate Professional of the Year Award by the Des Moines Business Record. In addition to his business leadership, Rick has served the region as a civic leader in many capacities. These include serving on the boards of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, Des Moines Redevelopment Company, the Greater Des Moines YMCA, the Downtown Community Alliance, the Taxpayers Association of Central Iowa, and the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, among others. 


President’s Award for Exemplary Service

John Peterson, Peterson Planning Strategies

The President of the APA-Iowa Chapter is pleased to present John Peterson with the President’s Award for Exemplary Service to honor John’s 37 years of public service with the city of Ankeny, his subsequent founding of Peterson Planning Strategies, and his exceptional commitment to help Iowa communities become healthier through planning initiatives. John has been instrumental in the success of Plan4Iowa grants received through the American Planning Associates and continues his work at the local and state levels to ensure our communities are prepared with the tools necessary to design spaces that encourage citizens to choose a more active lifestyle. 

Awards Announcement

The results of the 2017 APA-Iowa Awards were officially announced at the evening Awards Reception during the 2017 APA-IA Conference, held from October 4 - 6, 2017 in Dubuque, Iowa.