To all of us at the Iowa West Foundation, it is important that the community understand our perspective on how the investments of the Iowa West Foundation are dramatically transforming our community. We want to invite the community to examine our efforts based on facts.
In the past three editorials I have talked about the $237 million dollars that has been invested by Iowa West in partnership with the City of Council Bluffs for projects and amenities that benefit all of us who live here. We have invited you to learn more about the $101 million Iowa West has invested to improve and enhance the educational opportunities for our children and youth as well as adult learners. And, most recently, the $73 million invested with the human service community through our Healthy Families portfolio.
Today, we want to share information about the $165 million dollars that has been invested in “placemaking.” Placemaking is the process of strengthening the connection between people and the places they share. Place making refers to a collaborative process by which we shape our public realm in order to maximize shared value.
Our process has always had community participation at its center. We have routinely created opportunities to listen to what the community members felt was important and then focus on those efforts. We have intentionally tried to capitalize on our local assets, inspiration and potential. The goal in our place making efforts is to create quality public spaces that contribute to people’s health, happiness and well-being.
The most frequent comment I hear about the work of the Iowa West Foundation in this area is often expressed by individuals who say something like, “It is amazing how much our communities have changed.”
When asked what they mean by that comment, it is often expressed as the dramatic difference in the physical appearance of the community. In Council Bluffs, people mention the historic downtown, Bayliss Park, the 100 Block, trails, West Broadway and our streetscape investment. These are just a few examples of significant leadership and investment by the Iowa West Foundation to create the kinds of amenities that make for attractive public spaces.
In our rural communities, it is often about infrastructure, downtown revitalization, community centers, support for the volunteer fire departments and beautification support.
It feels good to live in a community that is attractive. It is easier to raise a family in a community where children have access to amenities that all kids want and need to express themselves. Parks, pools, recreation fields for baseball and soccer and the arts are integral and important to our quality of life. Amenities like our Field House for basketball and volleyball and the new Sports Plex, which will house indoor soccer and baseball and other field sports, are a draw for residents as well as tourists. Pottawattamie Arts, Culture, and Entertainment (PACE), a frequently requested and highly studied amenity when it opens in February, will be a result of a tremendous sustained effort by the Iowa West Foundation.
It is not easy to please everyone. One critic recently complained that Iowa West Foundation and I were just trying to make Council Bluffs like West Omaha. Don’t our youth deserve the same kinds of amenities that kids who grow up in West Omaha deserve? Should our families have to drive 45 minutes for their kids to participate in the activity of their choice? Shouldn’t our community theater have an attractive, clean and healthy environment for our community members who love the arts?
Council Bluffs is a special place. Nestled in the Loess Hills, we enjoy a unique place to celebrate and enjoy life. The Iowa West Foundation’s placemaking investments are focused on adding to the natural gifts we have been given. Take a look at the highlights below, and you can see a complete list of all of our place making investments here.
arts, culture & entertainment $28,400,000;
West Broadway $4,600,000;
community centers/infrastructure $11,500,000;
So let’s celebrate $500 million dollars in grant making and initiatives invested by the Iowa West Foundation. It’s more than a billion dollars when you combine our investments with our partners and other funders. These investments have been the driving force for transforming our community.
In the next few months the Iowa West Board of Directors will be selecting a candidate to replace me as I move into retirement. When the time is appropriate, I will be sharing some reflections with the community on my experience as CEO of Iowa West for my final editorial.