Clinton mural (UI photo)

The University of Iowa and the City of Clinton held a kickoff event Friday afternoon in that Mississippi River town to celebrate their partnership with the Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities.

UI Professor Travis Kraus, who directs the program, says about a hundred UI faculty members and students will be working with an array of Clinton leaders over the next year on a host of community enhancement projects. This is the 12th year for the initiative.

“Clinton is our 17th partner. We’ve been as far west as Sioux City in the Siouxland area and as far north as Winneshiek County and then we’ve also been in Keokuk, so we really have touched most parts of the state,” Kraus says. “The idea is that we partner with one community or two communities in a year and then we move on to another location in the state.”

Between 15 and 20 projects will be tackled in Clinton over the next year, involving a range of university resources from the law school to the arts to engineering.

“The focus has been a lot of engineering projects in downtown revitalization, so rehabilitating downtown buildings so that they could be appropriate for investment and development and new residential units,” Kraus says. “We are also doing engineering projects to enhance the trail system and the riverfront festival area.”

The event in downtown Clinton took place beside a colorful, just-completed mural on the side of a fabric store called Keeping You Sewing.

“The mural shows images that connect to the business that’s there, that I would say is an anchor business for downtown, but it also shows elements of Clinton’s history and landscape,” Kraus says. “It’s a really cool, unique design where part of it is like a quilted landscape and then there’s a more realistic image of a sewing machine.”

Other projects will include: housing assessments, urban planning, public art, stormwater management, regional branding, local history, and more.