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Community Design Lab

The Iowa State University Community Design Lab (CDL) partners with Iowa communities to create healthy places through innovative strategies ad tactics. A primary goal of CDL is to inform and engage community members in thoughtful and meaningful ways that encourage greater public participation in the design process and increased support and ownership of the project moving forward. This level of engagement extends into the investigative process, which involves active listening, as well as on-the-ground and explorative research to develop a rich inventory and analysis centered on user experience of the built environment. This analysis aids in the visualization of community goals and concerns to establish design frameworks, strategies, and master plans.

Iowa's Living Roadways Community Visioning Program

The Community Visioning Program integrates landscape planning and design with sustainable action to empower community leaders and volunteers in making sound, meaningful decisions about the local landscape. Communities work closely with technical experts from Trees Forever, a private-sector landscape architect, and the Iowa State University Department of Landscape Architecture to create a transportation enhancement plan reflecting the values and identity of the community. Successful completion of the visioning process results in a transportation enhancement plan and implementation strategies that empower communities to build meaningful townscapes, step by step, as resources become available.

ISU Research team Measures the ‘Ripple Effects’ of Community Visioning

Since its inception in 1996, the Iowa’s Living Roadways Community Visioning program has made visible impacts in small Iowa communities, ranging from entrance signage and corridor enhancements to recreation trails and pedestrian-friendly streetscapes. 

Program staff have documented these impacts over the years through site visits, surveys, and one-on-one interviews. However, little has been done to understand the impacts of the program beyond physical changes to the landscape.

To identify the learning outcomes of participation in Community Visioning, program director and Iowa State University professor of landscape architecture Julia Badenhope decided to employ a relatively new research technique called “ripple effects mapping” in past visioning communities.


Iowa’s Living Roadways Community Visioning accepting applications for the 2020 program year

August 12, 2019

Ames, IA - The Iowa’s Living Roadways Community Visioning Program is currently accepting applications for the 2020 program. Eligible communities are those with populations of fewer than 10,000 residents, existing transportation-related issues and a committee of volunteers willing to dedicate their time and talent to the visioning process. Only communities located within one mile of a state or federal highway will be selected.

Read more here.


Community Visioning Program practices virtual and socially-distanced community engagement

August 24, 2020

Is public participation possible during a pandemic?

That was the question facing Iowa’s Living Roadways Community Visioning program staff in mid-March, when Iowa State University canceled all in-state travel for employees.

Julia Badenhope, ISU professor and visioning program director, decided to use COVID-19 as an opportunity to explore innovative ways to engage the public without compromising the safety of staff, students, and community members.


Towns selected for 2021 Community Visioning Program

November 12, 2020

AMES, Iowa – Ten Iowa communities have been selected to participate in the Iowa's Living Roadways Community Visioning Program in 2021.

The 2021 visioning communities are Alleman, Calamus, Conrad, Emmetsburg, Malvern, Princeton, Shenandoah, Tama, Toledo, and Wheatland. Three of the communities had participated in the program previously: Emmetsburg (2000-01), Princeton (1996-97) Toledo (1998-99). The program is sponsored by the Iowa Department of Transportation in partnership with Iowa State University Landscape Architecture Extension and Trees Forever, an Iowa-based nonprofit environmental advocacy organization.