In 2008, the City of West Union, Iowa, began a partnership with the Iowa Department of Economic Development to pilot project the Green Communities program. West Union’s partnership was driven by the need to make street and storm sewer improvements within the business district. To start, ECT led a workshop and created a conceptual visioning plan. The resulting plan guided a renaissance of the downtown district and neighborhoods and served as a model for other communities integrating sustainable green infrastructure.
It incorporated the local residents’ needs with principles of New Urbanism and green design. The recommendations included transportation alternatives for pedestrians and bicycles, streetscapes for all seasons, and design solutions that treated water as a valuable resource.
The initial plan led to the implementation of the pilot project, which was completed in 2013. ECT provided landscape architecture and civil engineering services for the streets and right-of-ways (ROWs) surrounding the courthouse square. The pilot project provided a sophisticated approach to modernizing traditional downtown infrastructure using environmentally beneficial materials and practices.
The West Union pilot project applied stormwater and energy upgrades and innovations. Six blocks of a porous paving system infiltrates and cleanses stormwater on site along with 27,000 square feet of rain gardens. The district geothermal heating and cooling system connects 60 downtown buildings to new geothermal wells under the courthouse lawn. Building energy audits and energy efficiency incentives encourage participation. Electric vehicle charging stations and LED streetlights reduce energy use. Additional amenities included a community amphitheater, improved walkability and accessibility, and incorporation of public art.
The innovative approaches applied in West Union distinguish this project as the first of its kind among Main Street programs in the United States. As a result of the funding sources identified during the visioning workshop and the onset of federal and state stimulus programs in 2009, ECT leveraged more than $7.5 million of the $10.2 million project from outside sources. A long-term research project continues to study the environmental, social, and economic impacts of the project.