Dows Farm Agri-Community


In April 2017, Linn County acquired approximately 485 acres of land generally located north of Mt. Vernon Road and west of Highway 13. The acquisition consists of two separate areas:

  • One area of approximately 306 acres
  • The other area of approximately 179 acres 

The entire 485 acres has been designated as an Economic Development Urban Renewal Area under Iowa Code Chapter 403.

North 306-acre area.
The north 306 acres is adjacent to the county-owned Squaw Creek Park and the City of Cedar Rapids’ Gardner Municipal Golf Course. Because of its strategic location adjacent to existing park and recreation facilities, the intended long-term use of the 306-acre area is for conservation and related uses.

South 179-acre area.
The south 179 acres is bordered by Mt. Vernon Road on the south, Dows Road on the west, and the Squaw Creek Ridge residential development on the northeast. The 179-acre area is the project area for the Dows Farm Concept Plan

The guiding principles for development of the 179-acre tract are rooted in the Linn County Comprehensive Plan: A Smarter Course – Building on the Past, Embracing the Future of Rural Linn County. The Plan, adopted in 2013, articulates goals for Alternative & Renewable Energy, Economic Development & Employment Opportunities, Hazard Planning, Livable Communities, Resource Protection, Sustainable Development, and Transportation. The Linn County Comprehensive Plan incorporates new planning practices of the Iowa Smart Planning Principles to develop a wide range of strategies to guide the character of new development.

For the portion of the Dows Farm property to be developed, the Board of Supervisors wanted to achieve a development based on the principles of the adopted Linn County Comprehensive Plan, and that incorporates and protects the site’s significant environmental features, respects its agricultural heritage, and provides a mix of housing types with a thoughtful integration of commercial uses.

How the vision was conceptualized: 

To accomplish this vision, the Board of Supervisors issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for Concept Planning Services. The RFP received national interest, with eleven proposals submitted from planning consultants located throughout the country. The RFP asked for three concept plans: 1) an “agri-community” with working farm, a mix of housing types, and commercial uses; 2) a “conservation development” that incorporates a significant open space/resource protection component, also with a mix of housing types and commercial uses; and 3) a “market-based” plan that effectively maximizes the financial return to the county. From the three concept plans, a preferred concept plan was to be developed.

A 12-member planning committee reviewed the proposals and Reynolds Urban Design, Des Moines, was awarded the contract in December 2017. Reynolds held several work sessions with the planning committee to develop the framework for a successful project, and to create and review the three concept plans as required in the RFP. Additional work sessions were held to arrive at the preferred concept plan, which is based on successful projects in other communities. The preferred concept plan was then presented at the April 12 open house.

The Dows Farm Concept Plan includes:

  • A working farm to grow healthy foods using sustainable farming practices (43 acres)
  • Trail connections
  • Greenways and open space to protect Squaw Creek (88 acres)
  • A mix of housing types with a thoughtful integration of commercial uses (48 acres)
    • 40,700 gross square feet of commercial space
    • 186 single-family dwellings
    • 94 multi-family dwellings
    • 101 apartment dwelling units
  • 75 percent of the Dows Farm land is planned as open green space or working farm

Estimated Economic Value:    $93 to $119 million

Estimated Land Value per Concept Plan: $4.5 million

The design of the buildings, the interspersing of open space within the development, and the relationships between the uses will be carefully governed as part of the development requirements. Examples of these items are shown in the materials from the open house linked below.

The following material was presented at the open house:

Presentation slides (PDF)

Dows Farm Concept Plan (PDF) 

Trails & Conservation Concept:

  • Provide connecting trails for walking and biking within the development and as extensions of existing and planned trail systems
  • Provide trail alignments that respond to floodplain/floodway conditions while also providing shaded environments that interact with the stream’s riparian environment
  • Riparian park with range of activities that interact with the riparian environment including play, exploration, gathering, education, relaxation, fitness, and special events
  • Showcase current best practices in environmental restoration, trail design, and stormwater management

Working Farm Concept:

  • Preserve and enhance the existing farmstead site, including farm house, barn and paddock
  • Farm operator/manager to live on-site
  • A mix of horticultural crops including, fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers and pollinator habitat
  • Livestock may include goats, sheep, small cow breeds, alpacas, llamas, or chickens
  • The farm can be used for farm-related events, and as a teaching laboratory with hands-on learning opportunities for children and adults

Mixed-Use Housing and Commercial Concept:

  • A strong focus on design and quality
  • A mix of housing types to provide a range of housing opportunities that create a sense of community
  • Easy access to open space and trails from all neighborhoods

Financing for the Dows Farm Project:

The purchase price for the entire 485-acre acquisition was $7.2 million. No Linn County Water and Land Legacy Bonds were used to purchase the land, and it has been the County’s intent, from the outset, to sell portions of the acquisition for development purposes that were not intended for conservation, as stated in the November 28, 2016 news release announcing the acquisition


Benchmarking for the Dows Farm project emphasizes the desire for a unique development that includes significant open space systems, both agricultural as well as conservation based, with the development character/quality influenced by the site’s agricultural heritage. The following are benchmark examples considered during the concept planning phase for Dows Farm:

Serenbe Community (Georgia)

Jackson Meadow (Minnesota)

Prairie Crossing (Illinois)

Farmer's Table (Iowa)

Stonebarn Center (Upstate New York)

Next Steps for the Dows Farm Concept Plan:

Starting July 1, 2018, Linn County Planning & Development will begin Phase 2, which includes conducting background studies, refining the design concept based on feedback from the open house, and creating the development strategies and design guidelines and standards. 

Phase 2 may also include:

  • A traffic study to understand any potential impacts of traffic volumes and distribution as a result of the proposed plan, as well as design standards for proposed internal streets.
  • Refinements to the concept plan to further examine land use mix and proportions, density, and financial viability.
  • Low Impact Development and stormwater best management practices.   
  • Streetscapes including street widths and geometry, walkways, plantings, signage, & lighting
  • Parcel layouts for all uses (residential, commercial, agricultural, and open space).
  • Trail layout and design concepts.
  • Conceptual landscape treatments for streets, open space, and recreational areas.
  • Waste management strategies.
  • Energy conservation and alternative/renewable energy strategies.
  • Land management strategies for the working farm, conservation areas, and recreation areas.
  • Implementation strategies such as zoning & subdivision tools, design guidelines, development agreements, and development phasing.


Send us your feedback on the concept plan using this online feedback form or email us at:

Serenbe Community (Atlanta metropolitan area)

Prairie Crossing (Illinois)

Serenbe Community (Atlanta metropolitan area)

Prairie Crossing (Illinois)