Extension News

Town/Craft Hosts Lecture, Exhibit on Building Diverse Neighborhoods


Developing diverse neighborhoods in Iowa’s rural communities is the topic of the first lecture to be held at the Center for Town/Craft in Perry on Thursday, Oct. 11, at 7 p.m.

The lecture, "Diversity in Downtowns," will be presented by Genevieve Borich, a doctoral candidate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in conjunction with Town/Craft’s first exhibit, “The Design of Diversity” by Emily Talen, associate professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The exhibit, which opened on Aug. 7 and will run through Oct. 26, is an exploration of urban design for six socially mixed neighborhoods in Chicago. The goal of the project is to address how the planning and design of the physical environment can help stabilize diversity. In her lecture, Borich will discuss the changes taking place in downtowns in rural Iowa and how rural communities are adapting to increasingly diverse populations.


According to Talen, diverse areas may require a different kind of design focus than usual -- one geared specifically to the phenomenon of social mix. One reason is that they often are under stress. Gentrification leading to displacement and disinvestment is a constant pressure, potentially resulting in the loss of diversity. By focusing attention on the requirements of mix, connection and security, urban designers may be able to help provide a supportive context for stabilizing social diversity.


Borich will explore how the ideas incorporated in the study of diversity in urban neighborhoods can be applied to rural communities that are experiencing diversification with new residents from new cultures, said Alan Vandehaar, ISU Extension community development specialist and project manager for Town/Craft.


The key issue addressed by the exhibit and the lecture is “how to build diverse neighborhoods that are an asset to the town and not seen as a threat to neighbors and the larger community,” he added.


Borich experienced these issues in person in 2006 as the Main Street director for Ottumwa, where significant growth in diverse populations has taken place. In addition, she has a B.S. in community and regional planning from Iowa State University and an MS in urban planning from the University of Illinois. With Talen as her major professor, Borich has firsthand knowledge of the Design of Diversity project.


The lecture and exhibit are open to the public free of charge. Town/Craft is located in the Historic First National Bank building at 1122 Willis Ave in downtown Perry. The gallery is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.


The center for Town/Craft is an alliance of Hometown Perry, Iowa, the Iowa State University College of Design, and ISU Extension Community and Economic Development for the purpose of identifying and developing new ideas and strategies that strengthen small communities.  Additional information about Town/Craft is available at www.design.iastate.edu/TownCraft/ or by contacting the Town/Craft office at (515) 465-4659.


Contacts :

Angella Miller, Hometown Perry, Iowa, (515) 465-2518


Alan Vandehaar, ISU Extension Community and Economic Development, (515) 465-4659, alanv@iastate.edu


Sandra Oberbroeckling, ISU Extension Community and Economic Development, (515) 294-3721, soberbr@iastate.edu