Lakeside Interceptor | Duluth, MN

Washington Neighborhood Visioning Process

Client: City of Dubuque
Location: Dubuque, IA

MSA worked with the City of Dubuque to develop a neighborhood vision

MSA worked with the City of Dubuque to develop a neighborhood vision

Dubuque, Iowa is a community in possession of many assets – access to the Mississippi River, a business district that is economically viable, a solid mix of historic and new architecture, solid evidence of reinvestment in business and structures, and an engaged and active group of “champions” who represent the Public, Private, and Civic sectors of the community. Despite these assets, areas such as the Washington Neighborhood face significant challenges.

Washington neighborhood contains over 300 single-family homes, half of which were built before World War II, and approximately 150 duplexes. This is a disproportional percentage of homes carved out for single-family structures. The average assessed valuation for single-family homes is less than half of the citywide value for comparable homes. Income levels represent some of the lowest in the City with nearly 70% of the households earning less than 80% of the median area income. As a result, homeownership levels are at a disconcerting low rate of 30%. 

The challenge of this project was to bring together a diverse group of community stakeholders representing the full range of public and private interests and work with them to develop a consensus vision for the neighborhood that can be used as a foundation upon which to build a comprehensive revitalization process.

Working in conjunction with staff from Iowa State University Extension, MSA’s senior planning staff designed and implemented a comprehensive process designed to engage community leaders and neighborhood stakeholders in an interactive visioning process. Four community meetings were held with each specifically designed to build the civic capacity and shared understanding of the issues facing the neighborhood. These meetings included:
  • Meeting 1: “Where We Stand” – A comprehensive overview of current conditions was combined with interactive facilitative exercises to help the participants get to know each other and to identify some common bonds within the community. A photo-visioning process was assigned as homework.
  • Meeting 2: “What We See” – The photo results of the “homework” formed the basis for a conversation about community “assets” and “liabilities.”
  • Meeting 3: “Making Life Better” – A community “walkabout” helped participants to gain a better understanding of physical issues present in the neighborhood.
  • Meeting 4: “Making Choices” – The final meeting was used to generate a consensus vision statement utilizing a “fists of five” technique. At the conclusion, all participants signed the “declaration of interdependence.”

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