The American Planning Association (APA) has selected the City of Cedar Rapids River Corridor Redevelopment Plan, including the Neighborhood Planning Process, to receive the 2011 National Planning Excellence Award for Best Practices in Hazard Mitigation and Disaster Planning for its ability to expeditiously develop and embark on a redevelopment plan within days of a major flood.
This award recognizes an effort that protects communities from natural and manmade hazards, minimizes losses from a disaster, and aids quick and efficient recovery to leave communities stronger and better prepared than before. This is the first year for this award.
“The efforts of Cedar Rapids and its citizens are a testament to what can be achieved when a community must and does pull together for the common good,” said Marie L. York, FAICP, APA Board member and 2011 National Planning Awards Jury Chair. “In only 11 months after the worst flood in its history, Cedar Rapids designed and completed both a flood management strategy and a reinvestment framework for the city. At the heart of the process was a desire among all stakeholders to ensure that Cedar Rapids not only recover from the flood, but become a greater city for future generations.”
The City of Cedar Rapids began 2008 by naming it the “Year of the River,” a title meant to reinforce the connection between the city and the Cedar River that runs through its core. This name took on an unfortunate meaning when, in June of that year, a flood of unimaginable scale when the river crested 11.5 feet higher than any previous flood, forcing thousands of evacuations and causing more than $6 billion in damage.
Over 10 square miles were flooded with more than 10 feet of water, including the downtown and nine neighborhoods. The flood displaced 310 city facilities and devastated more than 7,000 properties, including more than 5,000 homes.
Within days of the flood, city officials, business leaders and citizens mobilized to develop and implement two phases of the River Corridor Redevelopment Plan. The collaborative planning process, in conjunction with Sasaki Associates of Watertown, Massachusetts, created partnerships between community members, multiple city departments, the Cedar Rapids City Council, and agencies ranging from the federal to the local level, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Linn County, the Cedar Rapids Downtown District, and the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.
Since the flood, the city and its residents have completed two phases of reinvestment and revitalization planning. Phase one, which began only days after the flood, was a four-month public process to develop a flood-management strategy. Phase two focused on creating plans for reinvestment in the flood-affected neighborhoods, called the Neighborhood Planning Process. A Neighborhood Reinvestment Action Plan was then drafted to guide reinvestment over the next 10 to 15 years.
Subsequent initiatives have built on the recovery planning outcomes, including: a community process to prioritize the replacement of flood-damaged City facilities; a Parks and Recreation Master Plan to integrate the new 220-acre floodplain greenway into the existing park system; an urban design principles process to address the need for a consistently high-quality urban realm as the city rebuilds; and an energy management plan to reduce municipal energy use and promote efficiency.
The award for the City of Cedar Rapids River Corridor Redevelopment Plan will be presented at a special luncheon at APA’s National Planning Conference in Boston on April 11, 2011. The plan will also be featured in an upcoming issue of Planning magazine, APA’s flagship publication.
For a list of all of the APA 2011 National Planning Excellence, Achievement, and Leadership Award recipients, visit www.planning.org/awards/2011
. APA’s national awards program, the profession’s highest honor, is a proud tradition established more than 50 years ago to recognize outstanding community plans, planning programs and initiatives, public education efforts, and individuals for their leadership on planning issues.
About the American Planning Association
The American Planning Association is an independent, not-for-profit educational organization that provides leadership in the development of vital communities. APA and its professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners, are dedicated to advancing the art, science and profession of good planning -- physical, economic and social -- so as to create communities that offer better choices for where and how people work and live. Members of APA help create communities of lasting value and encourage civic leaders, business interests and citizens to play a meaningful role in creating communities that enrich people's lives. APA has offices in Washington, D.C., and Chicago, Ill. For more information, visit www.planning.org