Downtown Historic Survey News

Project Description

The City of Iowa City has been working with an architectural historian, Alexa McDowell of AKAY Consulting, on an update to the City’s historic survey of the Downtown. The survey provides valuable information on the historical and physical character of the area. More specifically, it includes an inventory of properties and identifies their historic significance, outlines recommendations on historic district boundaries, and explains incentives available to property owners of historic structures.

The boundaries of the survey area are: Clinton Street on the west, Iowa Avenue on the north, Gilbert Street on the east and Burlington Street on the south.

Public Input 

Since the project started in 2017, the City held two public meetings and the consultant also met individually with a variety of Downtown property owners and stakeholders. To conclude the project, the City hosted a final public meeting on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018, in the Senate Chambers at the Old Capital, located on the University of Iowa Pentacrest. Those in attendance had an opportunity to hear from the consultant and learn more about the historic nature of Iowa City’s downtown.

On October 23, the consultant presented the project at a City Council Work Session where Council directed the Historic Preservation Commission to provide recommendations on how to proceed with the results of the findings from the Downtown Survey project. The Historic Preservation Commission will likely discuss recommendations at their December 13 meeting. 

Elements of the Survey

  • The 2018 Report
    The report presents the methodology used in the historical investigation; findings, including properties that are eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic places, and buildings that are key to Iowa City’s Downtown; two potential National Register Historic District boundaries; and a discussion of other recommendations on actions Iowa City should take in light of the findings, including tax credit information. 
  • Appendix A
    Includes a summary table of the buildings and maps of potential historic districts.
  • Appendix B
    The Multi-property Document, which is a formal document that discusses the history of Downtown and the architecture in a format used by the State Office of Historic Preservation.
  • Appendix C
    Presentations from the first two public meetings.
  • Appendix D and E
    Information on State and Federal Tax Credit programs.
  • Appendix F
    Outlines the National Register criteria for evaluation.
  • Appendix G
    Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation
  • Appendix H
    Iowa’s Mainstreet Architecture by Jan Nash 
  • Site Inventory Forms
    Individual evaluations of properties within the survey area.

National Register of Historic Places Nomination

After the completion of the downtown historic survey, the City moved forward with a nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. Listing in the National Register of Historic Places is an honorific designation with economic benefits, such as tax credits. The National Register does not, by itself, protect properties nor does it regulate changes made to a building.

The City continued to work with Alexa McDowell at AKAY Consulting on this nomination. The draft nomination is available here.

The Historic Preservation Commission will be reviewing the nomination at its meeting on September 10, 2020.

Project Contact 

For more information about Iowa City's Historic Downtown Survey, contact Historic Preservation Planner Jessica Bristow at or 319-356-5243