RAGRAI 2022: West Union Goes Green – Part 2

      Comments Off on RAGRAI 2022: West Union Goes Green – Part 2
Share This Article

Last week we took a look at the West Union Green Streets Pilot Project and how it came about. West Union was an overnight town during RAGBRAI in 2022 and did an admirable job in doing so. Although many of those who attended the event remarked on how good downtown West Union looked, they didn’t know just how green all the improvements had made this Iowa town.

The Resulting Downtown Streetscape

The resulting streetscape included 4.4 acres of permeable pavers. This included about 3,000 linear feet of streets and twice that of sidewalks. But the project didn’t stop with permeable pavers. Also installed were bio-retention areas, new water and sewer lines, LED street lights, and a district-based geothermal heating and cooling system for downtown buildings that wished to sign on. As the cherry on top, an outdoor civic plaza finished the sizeable undertaking.

But the improvements to downtown didn’t stop at the property lines. Dozens of building storefronts have been restored. A total of 12 upper-story housing units were also added as well.

Pictures of Downtown Improvements

Provided below are a few pics of the improvements in downtown West Union taken during RAGBRAI 2022. The massive crowd of course made getting pictures a little tough. But I was able to capture a few before taking in the night’s entertainment.

Permiable Pavers

West Union Streetscape – Permeable Pavers

West Union Streetscape - Rain Garden

West Union Streetscape – Rain Garden

West Union Streetscape - Permeable Sidewalks

West Union Streetscape – Permeable Sidewalks

West Union Streetscape - Light Fixture

West Union Streetscape – Light Fixture….and my finger

West Union Streetscape - Signage

West Union Streetscape – Signage

Iowa Green Streets Pilot Project Video

Provided below is a video on the project from Conservation Design Forum. It is a pretty good review of the project with a number of interviews of key stakeholders in the West Union Green Streets Pilot Project.

Lessons Learned

One of the issues that the community has run into through the process of developing the geothermal system was the need for incentives to hook into it. Except for a few with deeper pockets, the financial savings promised through the lower monthly costs wasn’t enough to lure businesses into hooking into the system. The end-user initial investment is relatively sizeable due to the need to make improvements to their own HVAC system.

However, project champions are looking into low-interest revolving loan funds and other incentives. They’ve been energized by recent movements in the Iowa Legislature in regard to tax credits for geothermal system improvements.

Overall, the buy-in to the geothermal system has been, in some eyes, slower than expected. However, it is one of the fastest when compared to similar districts in the United States.

“Keep a positive attitude. Don’t get discouraged by the naysayers'” states West Union District Energy Chairperson Dick Woodard. “It’s kind of like church, people don’t want to change hymns.”

Just like any major transformative project that will have a positive impact on a community, projects need champions that will see it through. It is rarely a short road to drive to success. You need true believers that are willing to hang on through the tough times to make your community great.

Additional Information

For additional reading on West Union’s green initiatives, check out the links below.