The University of Iowa

Iowa City Downtown Historic Preservation

Urban and Regional Planning students will assess current community interests, planning tools, and environmental needs to develop strategies for preserving Iowa City's unique historic downtown architecture.

The Iowa City Downtown District is currently listing the majority of Iowa City’s downtown in the National Register of Historic Places (NTHP). While the NTHP listing does not offer protection, it does incentivize historic rehabilitation and conservation to retain the historic integrity of a community. Locally, cities can apply design guidelines to local landmark or conservation districts. These guidelines are often based on the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. However, these Standards are intentionally vague and do not directly address accessibility, property values, and other social values. Recent research by the National Main Street Center’s City Lab, poses the argument: “Why Historic Preservation Needs a New Approach: With new tools and financing methods, preservationists could save endangered spaces without alienating those who should share our cause. Here’s how we can adapt.” In the article, Patrice Frey, suggests preservationists and planners take a multi-disciplinary approach and consider finance, affordable housing, community development, sustainability, and other fields in developing preservation tools in a community. Students will review the existing tools and best practices at the national and local levels and produce a set of recommendations for the Iowa City Downtown District.