Tag Archives: Best Development Awards


Celebrating Iowa’s ‘development heroes’ and recognizing smart growth principles across the state

1000 Friends of Iowa proudly announces eight recipients of its Best Development Awards for 2021 in seven categories. These recipients were chosen because they implemented the efficient use of resources to develop sustainable communities and provide a high quality of life.

“Having a wide variety of spectacular work across the state is heartwarming,” according to Julia McGuire, Program Coordinator. The 2021 Best Development Award winners are listed below (category, recipient and project, city):

  • In the specially created Best of Show category, the Tom and Ruth Harkin Center at Drake University in Des Moines, for its comprehensive incorporation of smart building and development practices in one of  the city’s oldest neighborhoods.
  • In the Renovated Commercial category, the Bellevue Button Factory in Bellevue, for converting a vacant factory into a usable space that fills community needs with many positive trickle-down effects.
  • In the Innovative Leadership category, Dupaco for the Voices Building in Dubuque, for converting a vacant manufacturing building into an operations center that revitalizes the Historic Millwork District.
  • In the Renewable Energy – Private category, Kemin Industries for the multiple solar arrays at its Global Headquarters in Des Moines, which are replicable throughout the company’s other sites
  • In the Renewable Energy – Civic category, Clenera and CIPCO for the utility-sized Wapello Solar Field in Louisa County, which can power 45,000 homes
  • In the Renovated Residential category, Mitchell Maskrey Mill in Maquoketa for sustainably repurposing a blighted flour mill into needed housing which continues the momentum in a revitalized downtown area
  • In the Transportation / Complete Streets category, the City of Windsor Heights for its University Ave Reconstruction in Windsor Heights which incorporated multiple modes of transportation, stormwater management, and placemaking.

Additional details about each winning project and their respective categories are forthcoming at the 1000 Friends of Iowa website, 1000friendsofiowa.org.

“By celebrating Iowa’s many great development projects, and the future-minded leaders working behind the scenes, we hope to see an increase in the use of sustainable practices,” stated Kari Carney, Executive Director of 1000 Friends of Iowa. “All of the nominations have brought positive energy to their communities.”

An Awards Ceremony is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022, at noon. State legislative leaders will be invited to speak. The ceremony will be open to the public and followed by time for media questions.

The Best Development Award winners are selected from a pool of nominations each year by an independent group of jurors. This year’s jurors were Megan Down, Project Manager for Impact 7G; Jim Engle, Director of Iowa Downtown Resource Center; Jeff Hanson, Community Development Operations Manager of the City of Sioux City; Ulrike Passe, Associate Professor of Architecture and Director for the Center for Building Energy Research at Iowa State University and Bethany Wilcoxon, Senior Adviser for McClure Engineering.

The Best Development Award Program recognizes projects in up to 12 different categories as a way for 1000 Friends of Iowa to express the fact that smart land use and sustainable communities are more than constructed buildings. All of the award recipients help advance sustainability across our state by considering site design, outdoor and indoor environmental impact, community and public use, and long-term benefits.

Founded in 1998, 1000 Friends of Iowa is the only organization in the state focused solely on promoting responsible land use in community, state, and federal development decisions. Its mission is to unite Iowans in efforts to protect farmland and natural areas, revitalize neighborhoods, towns and cities, and improve quality of life for future generations.


For more information about the Best Development Award Program, please contact Julia McGuire at 515-988-1828 or email awards@1000friendsofiowa.org.

2019 Best Development Award Winners announced

1000 Friends of Iowa announces 13 winners, 9 categories, 5 jurors

1000 Friends of Iowa is pleased to announce the winners of the 2019 Best Development Awards. The awards program showcases projects that recognize connections between building and project development to quality of life. With a mission focused on responsible land use, 1000 Friends of Iowa promotes smart growth planning principles that help achieve socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable communities. Projects recognized this year are located in the following communities: Altoona, Belle Plaine, Coralville, Davenport, Dyersville, Fort Madison, Grinnell, Iowa City, Johnson County, Knoxville, Marshalltown, Readlyn, and Stanton.

Plaques will be presented to winning applicants at an awards ceremony on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020, at the Iowa State Capitol Building, First Floor Rotunda, from 12 noon to 1:00 p.m. The public is invited to attend. Register here.

The hard work of the 2019 Best Development Award winners is acknowledged today ahead of the presentation ceremony. The category, project name, and city are listed here, followed by a short description and local contact.

New Civic: Unitarian Universalist Society Church, Coralville Over 200 friends and members of the Society informed a zero energy, accessible building that shares parking spaces with neighboring lots; planned the entire site for preservation of natural woodland and stormwater management; solar and geothermal energy; sustainable construction materials and conservation-minded finishes and fixtures. Contact: publicity@uusic.org

Renovated Civic: Grinnell Central Park, Grinnell Gifted to the City in the last 1800’s, generations of citizens experienced Central Park. By modernizing and updating the park, the adjacent downtown has also seen new energy. With a healthy mix of funding sources, the history and culture of Grinnell are honored. Simultaneously, the site’s greenspace, stormwater management, and safety are also enhancing the park to be an asset that its citizens love to use. Contact: rbehrens@grinnelliowa.gov

Renovated Commercial: Textile Brewing Company, Dyersville Dyersville Industries took a vacant, blighted downtown “Sewing Factory” building, restored it, and converted it into a place for community. Using contents inside the building and preserving the original structure, history is acknowledged in the walls, decor, and furnishings. The business has caused a ripple effect in tourism, downtown traffic, and awareness of water quality. Contact: jrahe@dyersville.com

Innovative Leadership: Solarize Johnson County 2018 Many stakeholders executed an education and group-buy program for solar arrays in both urban and rural areas. Using mostly existing rooftops, the project adds 1.12 MW of solar energy to the County. Modeling after another city’s solar group buy, Solarize Johnson County’s is “paying it forward” by presenting their work to other audiences. Contact: greenteam@co.johnson.ia.us

Mixed Use (tie): Lee County Bank and Cattermole Library, Fort Madison Fort Madison’s Downtown Commercial Historic District included the Lee County Bank, built in 1893, and Cattermole Library, built in 1894. Both sat vacant for many years. Barker Companies rehabilitated and renovated the exterior and interior of both buildings, leading to a renewed downtown area. The two upper floors of the Bank were transformed into 14 apartments while the lower floor was left mostly unchanged. The Cattermole Library was also converted to apartments on its upper floor while the lower floor is offices, with the original library circulation desk as the reception desk. Now fully occupied, the buildings are inspiring other activity in the historic district. Contact: kylegalloway@barkercompanies.com

Mixed Use (tie): Mason Building Renovation, Stanton With significant community buy-in, the Mason Building (also called the Tarkio Masonic Lodge), fits 1000 Friends of Iowa’s smart growth principles very well for high quality of life. Using private and public funds, reusing an existing structure built in 1878, the space now houses an apartment and two commercial tenants. Owners of an additional 13 downtown buildings are now looking at uplifting their facades. Contact: mickeyanderson01@gmail.com

Renewable Energy: Knoxville Community School District, Knoxville With 11 of its 12 facilities installing solar systems, 92% of the District’s electricity is now supplied by solar energy. Financed with a power purchase agreement (with Red Lion Renewables, a previous Innovative Leadership winner), the district expects to save $8500 annually and reduce carbon emissions by 1,235 tons per year over the 30 year lifetime of the arrays. Additionally, live data sharing is available between arrays, and a tool is under development to use this data for student lessons. Contact: craig.mobley@kcsd.k12.ia.us

New Residential , Owner-Occupied: Prairie Hill Cohousing, Iowa City Built on an 8-acre infill, the Prairie Hill development supports alternative transportation with its location near downtown, the university, a bus stop, and businesses. Duplexes and 4-plexes were designed to shared walls and roofs to reduce the use of sustainable construction materials, solar panels, and labor costs. The site was planted for low-irrigation and no-mow space, with stormwater management practices installed. The development also supports many price points to make housing accessible and affordable. Contact: delholland@aol.com

New Residential, Multi-family Rental: Altoona Towers, Altoona The Altoona Towers were built for energy efficiency and include charging stations for electric cars, a bus stop, proximity to bicycle trails. Thoughtful consideration of building and site successfully show that landlords can make capital investments to keep tenant utility bills at a minimum, even if the tenant is not conservation-minded. By using energy efficient construction materials, appliances, window dressings, and lighting in rental housing, energy consumption can affordably be reduced to the benefit of the tenant and the landlord. Contact: keith@ppm-inc.com

Renovated Residential: Naval Station, Davenport Built in 1904, our Renovated Residential winner has seen many uses as a grade school, a naval training station, and storage facility. Today, it is an excellent example of an adaptive reuse of an historic building with an integrated stormwater management system. After sitting in disrepair as a blighted lot, the Naval Station was renovated and rehabilitated for mixed income senior homes. By addressing the entire site, neighborhood got an uplift from a number of funding sources to the infrastructure and the lot, as well as launching a domino effect in an historic area. The use of salvaged and sustainable construction materials, inclusion of alternative transportation, thoughtful landscaping, and interior work contributes to its positive environmental impact. Contact: chris@alespc.com

Stormwater Management, Private: Gallery Garden, Marshalltown The land for this project was vacant because of a building fire. It was privately developed into a unique, urban park space that addresses multiple stormwater issues for the area. The focal point is a gallery garden wall, which is irrigated by the stormwater. The resources on the site stay on the site, with the irrigation system, lighting, and cameras all powered by solar panels. With its shelter and seating, the Gallery Garden is a popular public location for viewing artwork and the garden features, events, photography, and more. Its signage educates users about the sustainable practices. Contact: bkh91753@gmail.com

Stormwater Management, Public: Readlyn Wetland, Readlyn Runoff from more than half of the City flows into this created wetland to reduce stormwater wetland, which benefits everyone downstream in the 95-acre watershed. The property for the wetland was purchased from a private landowner and future plans include a recreational walking trail. Moreover, a trailhead for the Rolling Prairie Trail is nearby and supports a high quality of life for residents. The Watershed Management Authority and the local school have been involved, including a grant awarded for students to install edgeland plants along the wetland in 2020. Contact: dcjblkw@yahoo.com

Urban Placemaking/Greenspace: Larry Schlue Memorial Sound Park, Belle Plaine After 5 years of collaboration across many sectors, the City of Belle Plaine converted an underused grassy lot with benches into a space that honors the railroad culture of the town, a man who was a champion for his community, and connects many users to downtown. The Sound Park builds off an earlier revitalization effort to support a thriving and walkable business district. Contact: director@bpcdc.net

Winners of the Best Development Awards are selected from a pool of applicants each year in up to twelve categories by a panel of jurors. This year’s jurors have a variety of backgrounds: Pat Boddy, Stewardship Director for RDG Planning and Design; Megan Down, Project Manager for Impact7G; Jeff Geerts, Special Projects Manager for Iowa Economic Development Authority; Jeff Hanson, Community Development Operations Manager for the City of Sioux City, and Ulrike Passe, Associate Professor of Architecture and Director of the Iowa State University Center for Building Energy Research.

1000 Friends of Iowa, founded in 1998, is a statewide nonprofit organization focused on land use education. Its mission is to unite Iowans in efforts to protect farmland and natural areas, revitalize neighborhoods, towns and cities, and improve the quality of life for future generations.

The Best Development Awards Program, founded in 2001, recognizes the organization’s mission in a tangible manner through awards in twelve categories.

Celebrate smart development

1000 Friends of Iowa is pleased to celebrate the winners of the 2017 Best Development Awards. The Awards Program showcases projects that exemplify the connections between building, land, and natural resource development and quality of life. With a mission focused on responsible land use, 1000 Friends of Iowa promotes smart growth planning principles that help achieve socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable communities. The public is invited to recognize our award recipients with us.

The projects recognized in this year’s awards are located in the following cities: Charles City, Clive, Denison, Des Moines, Dubuque, Glidden, Marshalltown, Muscatine, Norwalk, Sioux City, Waterloo. Find details on the award-winning projects at http://1000friendsofiowa.org/2017-best-development-award-winners/

What:                             2017 Best Development Awards Ceremony

When:                            January 16, 2018, from 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.

Where:                           Iowa State Capitol Building, 1st Floor Rotunda

Best Development Awards – Become a Sponsor!


Celebrating 16 Years of Recognizing Smart Growth & Sustainable Development Across Iowa

The Best Development Awards program recognizes cities, companies, nonprofit organizations, and individuals who demonstrate how responsible development and planning practices provide benefits to the community, the environment, and quality of life for future generations. Nominated projects help advance sustainability across our state by considering site placement, design, water efficiency, energy management, materials and resources used, indoor environmental quality, public use, and long-term benefits.

Our Best Development Awards Program is made possible because of the generous donations of our sponsors. Please consider becoming a sponsor this year.  For more information on sponsorships, click here.

Click here to make a sponsorship gift.

Nominations for the 2017 Awards will open on September 1, 2017.
Download the Best Development Awards informational brochure here.

STEP 1: Download the category application (see links below)

STEP 2: Review the awards program and category criteria

STEP 3: Submit your nomination by the Nov. 15th deadline

Entry Fee: $50 

Pay entry fee online by clicking here or make checks payable to: 1000 Friends of Iowa 3850 Merle Hay Road, Suite 605 Des Moines, IA 50310 (Please note Best Development Awards entry fee)

2017 Categories (Click the specific category for its application) 

Questions? Contact: Awards@1000friendsofiowa.org

Now more than ever we must raise awareness of people doing great things in our communities. We are facing a critical time when our water, land, air, and climate are so threatened by the impacts of poor land use decisions — it is imperative that we work to promote efforts that are doing it right. Because we know that smart land use and sustainable communities are more that just buildings, we’ve added three new categories this year:

  • Renewable Energy, including solar and wind for commercial and residential properties
  • Transportation/Complete Streets, including walkability and bicycle-friendly measures that cut the dependency on fossil fuels and decrease sprawl
  • Placemaking/Green Space, which turn blight and poor planning into a living vision
Want to sponsor the 2017 Best Development Awards?
Get information here, including sponsorship benefits.

1000 Friends of Iowa established the Best Development Awards in 2001 to showcase development projects and programs in Iowa that best reflect the principles of smart growth, sustainability, and uphold the mission of 1000 Friends of Iowa. We also recognize the efforts of businesses, developers, cities, organizations, and individuals responsible for these projects. The Best Development Awards are selected from a pool of applicants each year and judged by an independent group of jurors. Become a sponsor today!

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2015 Best Development Awards

Now Accepting Nominations for the 2015 Best Deve1000FRIENDSBDAlopment Awards

1000 Friends of Iowa’s Best Development Awards program is designed to bring attention to cities, companies, non-profit organizations, and individuals who demonstrate how responsible development and planning practices provide benefits to the community, the environment, and quality of life for future generations. Nominated buildings and projects help advance sustainability across our state by considering site placement, design, water efficiency, energy management, materials and resources used, indoor environmental quality, public use, and long-term benefits. There’s no entry fee to submit an application. Deadline is December 15, 2015. Apply today!


  • New Residential
  • Renovated Residential
  • New Commercial/Civic
  • Renovated Commercial/Civic
  • Mixed Use
  • Leadership
  • Storm Water Management


Contact Lori Schervish at awards@1000friendsofiowa.org or Kari Carney at Kari@1000friendsofiowa.org with any questions.

7 Best Practices for Smart Growth in Iowa

BDA 2014 Communities with compact, connected metro areas offer their residents longer, safer, healthier lives than cities with greater sprawl, according to a recent study. Smart Growth America’s Measuring Sprawl 2014 report outlines economic and social costs of sprawl. It also states that compactness has a strong direct relationship to upward economic mobility. With a mission focused on responsible land use, 1000 Friends of Iowa promotes ways to keep our urban areas fit while preserving Iowa’s farmland, open spaces and natural habitats. The nonprofit announced its 2014 Best Development Awards winners last month, showcasing projects that champion smart growth planning principles. How the winners achieved success offers some valuable insights. Below, recipients share practical advice that may help your next project.

1. Pursue the impossible “Who would have ever imagined that our town could do this?” is a common question voiced by West Union community members and former residents. With a population of 2,500, the northeastern Iowa town’s ambitious streetscape initiative is one of the most innovative, sustainable community demonstration projects in the country. In Des Moines, the Madison Flats apartment building is located on a former landfill site with major drainage issues. When the Neighborhood Development Corporation was originally looking at the location people “politely said we were crazy,” said executive director Glenn Lyons. The nonprofit’s priorities and resources like Iowa’s Brownfield/Grayfield Tax Credit Program enabled NDC to persevere. Noting that they dug up a fully buried dump truck, Lyons said, “We’re able to work in areas the private sector deems too risky, and provide a catalyst for getting them interested.” Dubuque’s Green Alley Program is retrofitting 240 alleys with permeable pavement to reduce storm water runoff by up to 80 percent. “We cannot ignore issues simply because they might appear to be too big,” said Deron Moehring of the City of Dubuque. Instead, the program applies a city administration mantra “plan your work and work your plan” to address matters head on, quantify the issue, and be broad-reaching when seeking funding options.

2. Invest in existing neighborhoods After a dilapidated building collapsed, the City of Slater was left with a clean up bill exceeding $120,000 and an empty lot to own. It opted for a proactive approach with a similar property. The city purchased 421 Main Street in order to access renovation resources such as the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ Brownfield Redevelopment Program and Derelict Building Program. Financial support for addressing asbestos, replacing the roof and completing structural renovations enabled the city to do basic restorations then resell the property to a couple who now has a home and business in the historic building. City of Slater’s Jennifer Davies said, “For someone starting a business, salvaging a building or constructing a new one is a serious expense they cannot take on. It is easier for us to sell a useable shell than an empty lot.”

3. Do the unexpected When David Barzen of Sterling Investments drove by a dilapidated house on Urbandale Avenue in Des Moines he didn’t see what everyone else saw. Instead of tearing it down, Barzen bought it to turn into a rental property. Rather than cutting corners or making quick fixes, he chose to do custom restoration work. Barzen said, “I have found the nicer qualities I put into a property, the nicer it’s taken care of by tenants.” He sacrifices short-term investment gain for taking satisfaction in a job well-done.

4. Get personal Woodbine participated in a study that called for “kitchen table conversations.” Woodbine Main Street’s Deb Specker said the result of gathering a mix of ages and backgrounds in a comfortable setting was “a real list of priorities drawn up by real citizens, and a tremendous groundswell of support followed.” In Stanton, graduates of the local school are included in communications about the town’s new Viking Center and how it serves the community. Mickey Anderson of Stanton Friends gratefully acknowledged that “funding from graduates coast to coast helped make the project become a reality.”

5. Be shovel ready Dubuque learned readiness gives projects a helpful edge. “Many new programs are looking for ‘shovel ready’ projects because they want to effect change in short order,” said Deron Moehring, a civil engineer for the city’s Green Alley Program. “Dubuque has found that if you are ready, the funding programs will come.” The Stanton community experienced similar findings with its Viking Center project. Despite the financial crises in 2008, Mickey Anderson said, “We kept going because we knew we’d be one of the few ready when the economy bounced back.” Perseverance and preparation empowered the town of less than 700 residents build a multi-use community center that now boasts 200 members and 500 end users.

6. Respect the future Foreseeing a time when homes are held accountable for the resources they use, Chaden Halfhill of Indigo Dawn and Silent Rivers Design + Build renovated a home in Des Moines’ historic Sherman Hill neighborhood to be a replicable model. He found ways for historical charm, modern conveniences and sustainable building aspects to coexist. “This is a small house that lives large,” Halfhill said. “We traded square footage for quality, and demonstrated that comfort does not have to be compromised.”

7. Communicate, communicate communicate. Ambitious plans often involve private-public partnerships. Deb Specker of Woodbine said, “Partnerships are most effective if everyone has all the information.” Furthermore, she suggests taking extra effort to provide background information and regular updates to new collaborators. “It’s rather time-consuming work, but absolutely necessary,” she said.


The Best Development Awards are selected from a pool of applications each year and judged by an independent group of jurors.  The 2014 jurors included Ryan Peterson of Impact7G, Iowa State University graduate student Kristen Greteman, and City of Ankeny Community Development Director John Peterson.  Plaques commemorating each 2014 Best Development Awards recipient will be presented to the winners individually.

1000 Friends of Iowa, founded in 1998, is a statewide nonprofit organization focused on land use education.  Its mission is to unite Iowans in efforts to protect farmland and natural areas, revitalize neighborhoods, towns and cities, and improve quality of life for future generations.

Additional details about each winning project and 1000 Friends of Iowa’s smart growth priorities can be found at www.1000FriendsofIowa.org.

Awards Program Redefines How Sustainable Projects are Recognized


November 11, 2014

Media Contact: Siobhan Spain, 515-707-2783, awards@1000friendsofiowa.org

Awards Program Redefines How Sustainable Projects are Recognized

It’s not just for green building: 1000 Friends of Iowa’s Best Development Awards program helps raise awareness of the wide-ranging efforts happening across the state that enrich our economy, environment and social well-being.

DES MOINES, Iowa – 1000 Friends of Iowa’s annual Best Development Awards offer the most comprehensive recognition program in the state by including not only sustainable commercial, civic and residential property developments, but also storm water management, urban agriculture and nature preservation projects. With a mission focused solely on responsible land use, 1000 Friends of Iowa seeks any nomination project that adheres to Smart Growth principles for creating healthy communities and strong local businesses. The Best Development Awards application deadline is November 30th and the nomination form with guidelines is available at 1000FriendsofIowa.org.

Categories include New Residential; Renovated Residential; New Commercial/Civic; Renovated Commercial/Civic; Mixed Use; Leadership; and Storm Water Management.

The winners of the Best Development Awards are models of how responsible urban, suburban and rural development practices provide benefits to the local economy, the environment, and quality of life for future generations. The Awards showcase the hard work happening in our communities and inspire collaborative projects that make Iowa great.

There is no entry fee and individuals, contractors, architects, developer, cities, organizations, businesses and others are encouraged to apply. Recipients receive a plaque recognizing their achievement, publicity during announcement of winners, and recognition in 1000 Friends of Iowa’s educational materials, social media and website.

For additional information please visit 1000FriendsofIowa.org, or contact Siobhan Spain at awards@1000friendsofiowa.org or 515-707-2783.