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 Agri-Community.

The Dows Farm Concept Plan

  • Incorporates and protects the site's significant environmental features
  • Integrates a small working farm to grow healthy foods using sustainable farming practices
  • Envisions a broad range of housing opportunities
  • Provides a unique living, educational and economic experience
  • 75 percent of the Dows Farm land is planned as open green space or working farm

A working farm 43 acres

Conservation 88 acres

Development 48 acres

  • 40,700 gross square feet of commercial space
  • 186 single-family dwellings
  • 94 multi-family dwellings
  • 101 apartment dwelling units

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.

Phase 1 Concept Planning

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 incorporates new planning practices of the Iowa Smart Planning Principles to develop a wide range of strategies to guide the location, type, amount, timing and 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.

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.

Reynolds Urban Design, Des Moines, was awarded the contract in December 2017. Reynolds held several work sessions with a 12-member planning committee to develop the framework for a successful project, to create and review alternate concept plans and to arrive at a Phase 1 concept plan. The Phase 1 design concept envisions development in a manner that incorporates and protects the site's significant environmental features and respects its agricultural heritage.

The Phase 1 concept plan allocated 75 percent of the entire site as open green space or working farm. The remaining 25 percent of the site is shown as a mix of housing types with a thoughtful integration of commercial uses, with an estimated development value of $93 to $119 million

The Phase 1 concept plan was presented at a public open house on April 12, 2018.

Material Presented at the Open House

Presentation slides (PDF)

Dows Farm Concept Plan (PDF)

Phase 2 Master Planning & Implementation

Phase 2 planning, currently underway, will provide a detailed master plan and supporting documents to further refine and implement the Phase 1 Dows Farm Concept Plan. Phase 2 services include additional studies and data collection, and refinements to the Phase 1 design concept based on feedback from the open house. Phase 2 services shall include at least two meetings with the Core Planning Team, and at least one public open house or other public stakeholder input session.

Phase 2 services shall identify best management practices for all land use components (agricultural, residential and commercial) for stormwater management; energy conservation through building orientation, design, and construction; and the use of alternative and renewable energy systems. The best management practices shall also address farm and conservation land ownership and management options.

Phase 2 services shall also include development guidance documents to be followed by developers and landowners. The documents shall provide a template for site development and for building design and construction to achieve the vision articulated in the development concept and the intent of the master plan. Phase 2 services shall identify and recommend appropriate public investments/development incentives; create zoning or other entitlement regulations; and identify, as appropriate, a recommended mechanism (e.g. 28E Agreement, special area plan) for adoption by Linn County and other jurisdictions.

Specific Phase 2 services may 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 & subdivisions


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)


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

 Serenbe Community  (Atlanta metropolitan area) 

Prairie Crossing (Illinois)

Serenbe Community (Atlanta metropolitan area)

Prairie Crossing (Illinois)

75 percent of the Dows Farm land is planned as open green space or working farm