Community Development Plans: Strengthening the Foundation for Deeper Connections

Danielle Propst, AICP
October 24, 2023

When you imagine a thriving community, what do you see contributing to its success? For many communities throughout the Midwest, a vibrant community may include the following aspects:

  • Promotes a diverse business base
  • Embraces arts and cultural enhancements
  • Provides housing options and civic support opportunities
  • Ensures its infrastructure and utilities are meeting current needs and goals today and for years to come
  • Plans for their own success by engaging the community and creating a clear pathway for development to occur

For a community to evolve into a quality place to live, work, and explore, it starts with a vision. ISG's Planning Group helps bring visions to reality through a strategic process that results in an actionable, and holistic plan, also known as a Community Development Plan (Plan).

Your Vision

From updated parks and recreation areas to housing or industrial sites, ISG will seek to identify opportunities that maximize your vision to improve communities and prepare them for successful futures, while emphasizing growth and sustainability. Holding true to its mission of making a difference, ISG will combine its resources, partnerships, and experiences from previous successes with a community’s goals to help visions come to life.

The Process

The community development planning process can be broken down into three phases:

Phase 1: Visioning + Goals

During this first phase, ISG reviews past planning documents and reports, analyzes data, evaluates opportunities for improvements, and immerses into all aspects of the community. To gain a better understanding of a community’s local landscape, existing resources, and potential partnerships, ISG uses a listen-first approach with the community and project stakeholders. From visioning charrettes to online user group meetings and surveys, ISG has become an expert in leading engagement initiatives that encompass each voice in the community. Phase one is critical to laying the groundwork for the Plan—visions are aligned, opportunities are prioritized, goals are refined, and performance metrics are set to ultimately measure the Plan’s success.

Phase 2: Concepts + Opportunity Sites

ISG will incorporate the feedback received throughout phase one and develop preliminary concepts for opportunity sites along with supporting visualizations and materials. From water resources and sports and recreation to education and public works professionals, collaboration between ISG’s experts will optimize opportunity site selection and concept feasibility. The Plan will be reviewed and further refined with project stakeholders and community members through a variety of methods.

Phase 3: Community Engagement + Roadmap

During the third phase, community engagement initiatives will continue to ensure key components throughout the first two phases are addressed and align with the Plan’s goals. A final plan document will include a series of custom, high-quality visualizations of selected concepts, project phases, and cost estimates to serve as a roadmap to guide decision making and inspire future investments. ISG’s involvement doesn’t end here. We maintain on-going communication to assist with any implementation or plan adoption needs.

The Results

Planning is what we do, and we do it well. ISG works with each unique community to customize an actionable plan that draws on the local geography, customs, culture, and resources. This well-developed process has proven to be beneficial and a wise investment for multiple communities. The following examples showcase ISG’s success in community development planning.

Le Mars, Iowa

  • Goal: maintain small-town charm and proactively plan for development to accommodate rapid growth within community
  • Opportunities: housing, economic development, and quality of place, including downtown arts, culture, and parks and recreation
  • Identified nine opportunity sites and developed two preliminary concepts for public input
  • Currently beginning implementation efforts for the Plan and the identified opportunity sites

Orange City, Iowa

American Planning Association Iowa Chapter
2022 Economic Development Planning Award Winner

  • Goal: seek opportunities for growth and encourage investments in the community
  • Opportunities: housing, quality of place, and commercial and industrial development
  • Built plan from existing strategic and comprehensive plans
  • Stakeholder and residential engagement
  • Concepts, visualizations, and budgetary cost estimates for targeted sites throughout the community
  • Multiple projects implemented throughout City since August 2021

The Next Steps

From rural communities to large-scale urban and suburban areas, communities need to continue to develop to meet the needs of modern-day life. Today’s communities look and operate differently than in the past, and continued development has a greater impact for your community’s long-term success.

During National Community Planning Month in October, ISG celebrates the professionals and partners who make a difference for their communities. Want to learn more about ISG’s Community Development Planning process? Meet the Planning group experts that are eager to help your community take action and thrive.


Danielle Propst, AICP
Planner + Community Engagement

Danyelle Pierquet, PLA
Urban Designer + Community Engagement

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Danielle Propst, AICP
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