The University of Iowa

Church Row Neighborhood Plan

Waterloo site visit
Academic Year 
2020-2021
College/Department 
Planning & Public Affairs
Project Partner 

As part of their capstone project, second-year graduate students from the School of Planning & Public Affairs created a neighborhood plan for Waterloo's Church Row neighborhood.  

The City of Waterloo (pop. 67,798) sought assistance with the development of a Neighborhood Plan for Church Row, a core neighborhood located near downtown in order to foster a more safe, attractive, and welcoming area that provides opportunities for economic development, healthy and affordable living, and a high quality of life for residents. 

The story of Waterloo’s Church Row neighborhood, in many ways, reflects the past, present, and future of the entire Waterloo community.  The historic and grand homes of Church Row convey a sense of the prosperity at the turn of that 20th century that made Waterloo known as the “Factory City of Iowa”. The neighborhood’s early inhabitants were prominent bankers, real estate developers, business executives, and other wealthy residents attracted to the area because of its panoramic vista and close proximity to the economic heart of the city.  Today, those historic properties are home to an increasingly diverse population who, as part of the backbone for the local labor force, are no less vital to the economic well-being of the entire community.  Church Row continues to contribute substantially to the cultural and economic capital of the city. 

Like Waterloo, Church Row is both a place of boundless opportunity and complex challenges.  Community and neighborhood assets provide a strong foundation for improving prosperity and quality of life, while areas of neglect, disinvestment, and inequity require bold interventions and innovate ways of thinking.  More than a collection of houses and buildings, neighborhoods form around the people who live there- neighbors with a shared desire to feel safe and content in the place they call home.  

This Church Row Neighborhood Plan is meant to spur improvements in the neighborhood and serve as a model for how community-building and a neighborhood approach can drive positive change throughout Waterloo.  In neighborhood planning, existing assets serve as the foundation for imagining and creating a better future.  Careful planning and investment built around inclusion and collaboration can help Church Row achieve a stable and vibrant future that provides a high quality of life for its residents. 

The plan sets forth neighborhood goals and objectives, as well as specific, actionable strategies designed for both short-term and long-term change.  Of course, the success of any plan relies on local champions and engaged stakeholders working toward shared goals.  Fortunately, many individuals and organizations both inside and outside the neighborhood care deeply about making Church Row a safe and welcoming home for current and future families. 

In addition to creating the neighborhood plan, the Church Row Planning team studied and ranked the visible exterior condition of all homes in the neighborhood.  The results of the study can be used to think about targeted programming to help maintain the quality of homes and stabilize the neighborhood.