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Embracing the River: Smart Growth Strategies for Assisting in Cedar Rapids' Recovery

In 2009, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and EPA worked with state and local partners in Iowa to help communities recover from the June 2008 floods and tornadoes. Cedar Rapids, Iowa, wanted to examine how land development patterns contributed to flooding in certain areas of the city and incorporate sustainable redevelopment strategies into its policies. A team of EPA, FEMA, state, and city staff met in September 2009 for a two-day workshop to analyze city policies and procedures that affect development patterns and stormwater management. 

Rebuilding from the floods gave the city an opportunity to investigate policies that have led to development on its outer fringes and created barriers to compact development in established, mixed-use neighborhoods. The city also wanted to integrate post-disaster rebuilding goals into its ongoing smart growth initiatives.

The report, Embracing the River: Smart Growth Strategies for Assisting in Cedar Rapids’ Recovery (2010), discusses specific changes that could make it easier for developers to build projects that meet the city's goals for sustainability, while making new construction and redevelopment more resilient to floods. It also provides guidance that could help the city make policy changes to improve walkability, encourage mixed-use development, and better manage stormwater runoff. 

The project produced four products to help the city assess its policies and explore possible changes, which are described in this report:

  • Findings from an audit of existing codes. 
  • A review of the city’s Smart Growth Scorecard. 
  • A review of the city’s infill strategies. 
  • A review of proposed green infrastructure practices.
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