Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Names Cedar County a New Iowa Great Place

    DES MOINES – The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs has named Cedar County a new Iowa Great Place and re-designated nine existing Iowa Great Places and five Cultural & Entertainment Districts across the state.

    "T​he Iowa Great Places program celebrates communities with a bold vision to develop their communities through innovation, placemaking and integration of ​arts, history and culture to enrich their residents' overall quality of life," said Chris Kramer, acting director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. "We're proud to add Cedar County to the Iowa Great Places program, and I'm eager to see how they'll use this opportunity to keep growing."

    The Iowa Great Places program recognizes and partners with Iowans who cultivate the unique and authentic qualities of their local places – neighborhoods, districts or regions – and make them great places to live and work. Iowa Great Places receive access to professional training, technical assistance, a network of vibrant communities and passionate leaders, and other state and local resources.

    In addition to designation and re-designation, Iowa Great Places can apply for funding this fall for projects that are tied to their community's vision plan. Funding comes from an annual appropriation from the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund to the Iowa Great Places program by the Iowa Legislature. Currently, Iowa has 45 Great Places with 13 projects in progress. The average Iowa Great Places grant award from 2014 to 2018 was $204,000.

    Meanwhile, the Cultural & Entertainment District designation recognizes well-identified, walkable, mixed-use, compact areas of a city or county in which a high concentration of cultural facilities serves as an anchor. To be designated, a Cultural & Entertainment District must be an area where arts and cultural activities already thrive. Currently, Iowa has seven Cultural & Entertainment Districts.

    Information about Iowa's newly designated and re-designated Great Places and Cultural & Entertainment Districts follows:

    Iowa Great Places Designation

    Cedar County

    Cedar County is a quaint community located near Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, and the Quad Cities. The county provides a small-town atmosphere, where people want to raise a family, yet possesses convenient access to metropolitan areas and shares borders with three of the four most populated counties in Iowa. Cedar County’s vision is to enhance the quality of life of its residents and visitors through the County’s unique assets and attributes. The county is implementing projects that encourage downtown revitalization and increased arts opportunities, such as the restoration of Hardacre Theatre; creation of the Cedar County Office of Tourism to increase targeted promotion; and enhancement of its natural environment infrastructure, including the development of a Cedar County Recreation Trail Plan.

    Iowa Great Places Re-Designation

    City of Coon Rapids & Whiterock Conservancy

    Coon Rapids, one of the original three designated Iowa Great Places in 2005, has a rich history that represents the major historical trends in the state, first as a river town, then as a railroad town and retail center, and then as a hot spot for seed corn innovation. It is now evolving into a community that focuses on quality of life with an emphasis on natural resources and recreation. One of its greatest assets, the Whiterock Conservancy, is a 5,500 acre non-profit land trust that balances sustainable agriculture, natural resource protection and public recreation. Located along seven miles of the Middle Raccoon River valley, it is open to the public every day for recreation and exploration. Currently a 31-mile trail system is available for hikers, mountain bikers and equestrian riders.

    City of Davenport's Main Street Landing

    With a population just over 100,000, Davenport is the regional epicenter of the metropolitan Quad Cities, population 400,000, and the third largest city in Iowa. Geographically defined by the path of the Mississippi River, at the only place where the Mississippi runs from east to west, residents like to say that the sun always shines on their city. Today, Davenport is experiencing its greatest revitalization in more than 80 years. The city offers some of the nation's best schools, friendly neighborhoods, highest quality public services and a distinguished reputation for the arts, entertainment and especially river music.

    City of Decorah

    Decorah is defined by the boundaries of Decorah Township, a 36-square-mile area that encompasses the city proper and the surrounding natural, recreational and community infrastructure components that make up this unique Great Place on the Upper Iowa River and surrounded by forested bluffs. Over 600 acres of city parks, as well as county and state parks, are included in this area. Decorah’s commitment to outdoor activity, physical fitness, environmental stewardship, historical resources, and food production provide the foundation of Decorah’s identity and spur local advocates and nonprofit groups.

    City of Dubuque’s Driftless North End

    Nestled among the bluffs of the Mississippi River, Dubuque is well known for its natural beauty and the historic architecture that makes up much of the downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. The Driftless North End, the geographic focus of the Great Place re-designation, extends from the majestic bluffs on the western edge of the city to the city limits that trace the Mississippi River shoreline on the east. Residents of this historic district are minutes away from outdoor recreational opportunities, and just steps away from an urban core made of commercial architectural treasures ready to be revitalized into mixed-use neighborhoods. Streetscapes that once bustled with horse-drawn carriages, then automobiles, are being transformed through public art and other amenities to create pedestrian-friendly “third spaces."

    City of Guttenberg

    Guttenberg has experienced an awakening since its original designation as an Iowa Great Place in 2006. The recognition of the community as a valuable asset to the state ignited a new sense of pride. Its location along the rivers and bluffs of eastern Iowa, its rich German heritage, its numerous historic buildings and its vibrant, diverse local economy present a unique set of opportunities. Residents have joined together for the greater good of the community – to take action as a team, seizing challenges with renewed ambition. Guttenberg is using this energy to implement positive changes and improvements in quality-of-life features throughout their community.

    Cities of Iowa City, Coralville and North Liberty

    Iowa City, Coralville and North Liberty are three cities that make up one vibrant community, known for its dynamic culture, education and literacy. Much has changed since 2009 when the community was first designated as an Iowa Great Place, including improvements to infrastructure and quality of life better. Iowa City is a center for art, culture, education and recreation. Coralville’s 180-acre Iowa River Landing brings together condominium space alongside hotels, local restaurants, boutique shopping, historical museum and sculpture walk, with additional development progressing. North Liberty is a gateway to the many recreational opportunities found in parks, trails and proximity to Coralville Lake and Hawkeye Wildlife Preserve. The University of Iowa binds the three together in its longstanding tradition and progressive spirit that welcomes new possibilities.

    City of Marion

    Marion is a forward-thinking community that provides high-quality services that promote an active, safe and healthy environment. In preparation for re-designation, Marion underwent an extensive public input process to engage the greater Marion area in an open, all-inclusive discussion to develop great ideas to help develop Marion as a great place to raise a family and grow a business. Outcomes include creative updates to Marion’s historic uptown business district; increased accessibility to Indian Creek and updates to aquatic amenities to support the growing population.

    City of Perry

    Over the past two decades, Perry has experienced a cultural shift as immigrants have made the community home. This shift has challenged the community to adapt and embrace new cultural ideas and customs. As a result, Perry has seen a resurgence in creativity and vitality that has enriched every aspect of the community. Additionally, Perry is a destination for cyclists of all ages and skill levels. As one of the communities on the Raccoon River Valley Trail, roughly 2,500 riders travel through Perry each month between April and October. Through these changes in residents and tourists, Perry continues to work on its Downtown Revitalization Plan to show off the many historic building facades and introduce a new generation to the community's charm.

    Van Buren County

    Van Buren County From Milton to Farmington and Stockport to Douds, the Villages of Van Buren County provide a vast array of activities, culture and history to enjoy. The county actively promotes its reputation as one of Iowa’s best recreational and creative regions. The next stages of Van Buren’s vision are to enhance and improve its recreational places for visitors to stay, relax and enjoy.

    Cultural & Entertainment Districts

    Downtown Dubuque Cultural Corridor

    The Downtown Dubuque Cultural Corridor has many historic institutional, commercial and industrial buildings with first-floor retail/offices and upper-story housing. It offers affordable housing along with commercial offices, churches, parks and schools. Plus, major revitalization at the Port of Dubuque, Millwork District and Flat Iron Park has reclaimed underutilized and brownfield properties for walkable, accessible, mixed-use redevelopment. A network of bike/hike paths connects to parks, the Mississippi River, downtown and historic sites.

    Fairfield Cultural & Entertainment District

    The Fairfield Cultural & Entertainment District is located in the downtown area and features many historic buildings, mixed-commercial uses and local events. The town square is the center for locally owned shops, restaurants and entertainment venues. Since 2005, the Fairfield Cultural Alliance has supported arts, culture, history and creative expression in the district. From 2010 to 2017, it distributed Cultural Trust Fund Mini-Grants to worthy projects in the district and surrounding area.

    Downtown Davenport Cultural & Entertainment District

    The Downtown Davenport Cultural & Entertainment District hosts the majority of Davenport’s arts, culture and entertainment amenities. In addition to major amenities, such as the Mississippi Waterfront and Figge Art Museum, the district features more than 60 restaurants, shops and bars, each with its own unique flavor that adds to the district experience. All amenities are within walking distance and are located on contiguous blocks across downtown Davenport.

    Cody Road Cultural & Entertainment District

    The Cody Road Cultural & Entertainment District was established in 2007. It runs parallel to the Mississippi River and is located on the Great River Road. Cody Road includes many mid-to-late 1800s historical buildings that are part of the Cody Road Historic District, a National Historic District. Many structures now house unique retail shops, antique stores, galleries, restaurants, music venues and a winery. The Buffalo Bill Museum and River Pilot's Pier, Le Claire Community Library, and entertainment venues including a brewery and distillery in newer buildings are also within the district’s boundaries.

    Cedar Falls Downtown District

    Situated in a bend of the Cedar River, Cedar Falls is a classic example of how Midwestern towns emerged on the prairie in the mid-1800s. Flanked on two sides by the river, the revived downtown provides a present-day context for commerce, finance and a social gathering place. Cedar Falls’ Downtown District holds strength in its unique variety of activities and entertainment venues. As one of the first cities involved with Main Street Iowa, the district is a success story for the national Main Street revitalization program. After transforming from an economically depressed area in the 1980s to a sought-after business location today, the district now hums with activity.

    The Iowa Great Places and Cultural & Entertainment District programs are overseen by the Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.

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    The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and its three divisions – the Iowa Arts Council, Produce Iowa - State Office of Media Production and the State Historical Society of Iowa – empower Iowa to build and sustain culturally vibrant communities by connecting Iowans to the people, places and points of pride that define our state. The department’s work enables Iowa to be recognized as a state that fosters creativity and serves as a catalyst for innovation where the stories of Iowa are preserved and communicated to connect past, present and future generations. 

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