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Revitalization Project Prompted by National Award

In 2015, the City of Fort Dodge, Iowa advanced to the quarterfinal round of America’s Best Communities competition, a $10M initiative focused on stimulating economic revitalization in small towns across America. As a quarterfinalist, the city was awarded $50,000 in seed money to develop revitalization strategies for its local economy and improve the quality of life for residents.

Focus on Reuniting Northwest River District

The City of Fort Dodge and the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance chose to focus the awarded funds on a neighborhood located in the northwest portion of the city. Bordered by the Des Moines River to the east and Lizard Creek to the south, the Northwest River District was ripe for a revitalization effort. Although this neighborhood lies in close proximity to some of the larger agriculture-based businesses in the region, the area has experienced little growth since the 1980s and offers very little in the form of neighborhood services. In addition, the district is populated with smaller homes and an older demographic with limited purchasing power.

In the past, the presence of the two encompassing waterways was viewed as a barrier that divides the Northwest River District from the rest of Fort Dodge. The only connection point is through the single bridge crossing on Hawkeye Avenue. The revitalization effort aims to capitalize on the proximity of the Des Moines River and US Highway 169 to create recreational and business opportunities in an effort to reestablish the district as the proud western gateway to Fort Dodge.

stone retaining wall with mulch

The river district prior to construction

Thorough Public Engagement & Rapid Plan Development

In just over 3 months, a team from Snyder & Associates guided and developed the Fort Dodge Northwest River District Revitalization Plan. The plan was developed through an extensive public engagement process, social media marketing, and closely-spaced steering committee meetings that brought all parties together. The study area was broken down into four distinct areas that had different needs and presented varying challenges:

  • 3rd Avenue NW/Hawkeye Avenue Corridor — The reconstruction of this main corridor through the district is vital to all redevelopment efforts.
  • Gateway Enhancements — Creating a neighborhood theme through the use of repeating materials, colors, and branding promotes a sense of pride for citizens to embrace.
  • Lizard Creek Recreation Area — City-owned property along Lizard Creek can be used to offer more recreation opportunities.
  • North Neighborhood — Connecting this isolated neighborhood area to the main corridor is crucial for encouraging local investment. This would be accomplished through extending sidewalk and trail loops at Hawkeye Bridge and Hydro-Electric Park.

Creating these necessary improvements called for in the plan included land-use change alternatives, transportation system changes, and the expansion of recreation alternatives. Using 3D graphic design helped convey the goals of the plan in an easy-to-understand format. The plan also outlined a detailed market assessment and the strategies and tactics that would be helpful for implementing the changes.

Along with the four areas outlined above, the River Gateway area on the east side of the Des Moines River was also identified as a region that could be improved through the addition of gateway features to help create a consistent aesthetic with the Northwest River District. Other improvements considered for all of the study areas included road alignments, intersection enhancements, the creation of a community landmark or attraction, and the creation of public art areas.

Project Team Receives Award

In recognition of their work performed on this project, the Snyder & Associates team received a 2016 Award of Merit for Planning & Analysis from the Iowa Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA-IA). Team strengths in graphic design, infrastructure design, and recreational facilities planning were supported by a market assessment that guided the plan’s development. Snyder & Associates also provided consulting and marketing expertise to assist the community in securing the funds acquired through America’s Best Communities competition.