City, UI join on sustainability

BY IAN MURPHY | APRIL 08, 2014 5:00 AM

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Iowa City officials and the University of Iowa will partner during the next academic year on several sustainability projects in the Iowa City area.

The City Council approved the partnership with the UI Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities program at a special formal meeting Monday.

The initiative currently has projects in other Iowa cities, including Washington, Cedar Rapids, and Muscatine, said Nick Benson, the program coordinator for the UI sustainable communities.

The program was founded in 2009 by UI urban and regional planning Professor Charles Connerly.
Benson said the partnerships cover all aspects of sustainability, including environmental, economic, and agricultural efforts.

Geoff Fruin, the assistant to the city manager, said cities submit 30 to 40 project ideas they would be interested in working with the UI on.

Benson said each project will have either a UI course or an independent study associated with it.

“What we tried to do is understand what the university’s curriculum is,” Fruin said. “Who’s involved, what departments are involved, what their interests are.

“We tried to match up different projects associated with that.”

Iowa City officials submitted 29 project ideas, and they will have to be trimmed down to approximately 10 to 15, Benson said.

These classes extend outside the Urban and Regional Planning master’s degree program and include programs such as journalism and marketing.

Benson said one project city officials and the office will work on is developing community garden locations throughout Iowa City, as well as other urban agriculture initiatives.

Other possible projects include neighborhood wellness plans, strategies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, and development of a research park in the Iowa City area. Past projects included Decorah, Charles City, Oskaloosa, Dubuque, Anamosa, Columbus Junction, Wellman, and Burlington.

The initiative is funded through the Office of Outreach and Engagement.

Benson said the projects are still in their infancy.

“We’re just at the beginning of this,” He said. “The community has a lot of capacity to work with the university.”

Fruin said city officials should know within the next month what the UI is interested in pursuing.

City Councilor Kingsley Botchway said he thinks it is a great initiative and the city staff has done a great job executing on the goals the council laid out in the strategic planning sessions.

“I’m glad we’re committed to that kind of partnership,” he said.

The UI will also partner with Decorah and Sioux City during the 2014-15 academic year.

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