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 will create a neighborhood plan for Waterloo's Church Row neighborhood.  

The City of Waterloo (pop. 67,798) seeks assistance with the development of a Neighborhood Plan for Church Row, a core neighborhood located near downtown.  The Neighborhood Plan will establish a broadly supported and achievable vision for the neighborhood, helping 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. 

Housing will be a key issue for the Church Row Neighborhood Plan.  In particular, City officials hope to combat factors that contribute to disinvestment and blight, such as the high proportion of rentals, absentee landlords, and dilapidated housing, which also contribute to Church Row’s reputation of being an unsafe and transient area of Waterloo. 

Church Row does, however, have an active and engaged neighborhood association and residents who are eager for neighborhood improvements.  To best develop a neighborhood vision, the Planning team will work to further engage residents in the planning process and to improve trust and understanding among stakeholders (e.g. citizens, City staff, and the development community).  Church Row is home to a relatively high proportion of low income and minority residents, many of whom are immigrants and English language learners- planning recommendations should be designed to ensure that Church Row is a safe and welcoming neighborhood for people of all backgrounds and income levels. 

The City of Waterloo has been proactive about revitalization and working to stabilize neighborhoods by supporting rehabilitation of older properties, infill development, and homebuyer assistance.  The City is currently working with a consulting firm on a Downtown Master Plan, and has completed a similar neighborhood stabilization effort in the historic Walnut Neighborhood- both efforts will inform and shape the Church Row Neighborhood Plan.  One aspect of the project will be to help the City educate developers about the variety of existing resources available to support new residential development, and to educate residents about programs and support for home ownership.  This education and other housing strategies are particularly important because of a city-wide issue of low valuation on homes, which impacts city revenue and contributes to a perception of high residential taxes. 

In addition to housing, the planning team will address other aspects of the built environment, including streetscaping, parks and greenspace, and other forms of land use.  A transportation corridor running through the Church Row neighborhood connects to a commercial area in Church Row, and the planning team will consider economic development opportunities for the neighborhood as well.   Other focus areas for the plan could include zoning ordinances, transportation, urban design, historic preservation, health and well-being, social networks, and improving the neighborhood brand/image, depending on outcomes of conversations with City officials and stakeholders.