Iowa State University
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News Service

News Service:

Annette Hacker, director,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777

12-1-08

Contacts:

Geraldo Sandoval, Community and Regional Planning, (515) 294-6764, gsando@iastate.edu

Heather Sauer, College of Design communications, (515) 294-9289, hsauer@iastate.edu

Teddi Barron, News Service, (515) 294-4778, tbarron@iastate.edu

ISU community planning students help Perry integrate immigrants into revitalization

AMES, Iowa -- Some Iowa State University community planning students spent the semester working with the people of Perry to enhance the city's downtown revitalization plan. City leaders asked the students to find ways to integrate the immigrant community into the planning process and the final plan.

The students will present their recommendations at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 3, at the Center for Town/Craft, 1122 Willis Ave. in Perry. Their presentation, "Iowa's Re-emerging Hometown: Planning for a Multicultural Perry," is free and open to the public.

Led by Gerardo Sandoval, an assistant professor of community and regional planning at ISU, the students gathered community input and studied the town's design, economic development, social services and land use. To help bridge the city's cultural divide, they created a plan that promotes the underutilized and unique social and cultural capital in Perry, Sandoval said.

"In Perry, they're trying to revitalize their downtown and find ways to increase activities downtown," Sandoval said. "I challenged my students to think of innovative ways to integrate the elderly Anglo population, Perry's youth and immigrant Latinos and create a more vibrant downtown."

To help them reach out to the different populations in Perry, students worked with the Center for Town/Craft, which is a partnership of the ISU College of Design, ISU Extension Community and Economic Development, and Perry. The center helped the class engage community members, and staff members served as facilitators between stakeholders relating to the creation of the strategic plan. Students used the Town/Craft facility for community forums and spent time working in the design studio there.

"I wanted to give students a real-world situation," Sandoval said. "Perry is a town that has seen a tremendous influx of new immigrants. The Tyson pork processing plant has 1,200 employees, of whom 55 percent are Latino and 20 percent are African. About 70 percent of the employees from this plant live in Perry. This is a global and transnational workforce, which the city is challenged to incorporate into the type of planning they are considering.

"If you trace the meatpacking industry, it's nothing new--it has been around since the late 19th century, and immigrants have been its main source of labor. What is new and interesting is the change in the type of labor, the different wave of immigrants doing the work and especially, how these small towns and their planning institutions are adapting, or not, to these new members of their communities."

This type of project, Sandoval said, provides students important experience working in a multicultural environment, which they will face as professional city planners.

"Chicago and Los Angeles are seen as global cities, but you can go to places like Perry and Postville and they're global spaces, too. When our students graduate, they will not just be planning at the local level; they need to have a global perspective," he said.

Sandoval observed that it could be difficult to help integrate immigrants into any community because "much of this population wants to stay invisible.

"It is understandable that the undocumented immigrants want to remain invisible because of their immigration status, which makes it more difficult to include them in any type of participatory planning process," he said.

"Undocumented workers remain in the shadows; the documented are the ones who step up to advocate for the undocumented and start small businesses, and invest in the community. They are the most visible and want to be acknowledged. Then they put more pressure on the planning organizations."

The students' plan includes recommendations for strengthening immigrant community resources and small businesses, and creating a downtown plaza with artwork that celebrates multiculturalism.

"I'm very impressed with my students. They already have good design skills, good GIS skills, good quantitative demographic skills," Sandoval said. "My goal with this course was to help students take those skills and supplement them with analytical and more qualitative, process-oriented skills to create a plan that can be implemented by the community."

Beyond this studio, Sandoval plans to study the contributions immigrants are making toward revitalizing Main Streets in small rural towns, like Perry.

"My students conducted a business inventory analysis of Perry's downtown and interestingly, they discovered that most of the food/entertainment businesses were operated by immigrants," Sandoval said. "These are key businesses for maintaining and increasing the vitality of downtowns."

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Quick look

Community planning students in Gerardo Sandoval's class will present their recommendations for integrating Perry's immigrant community into the downtown revitalization planning process and the final plan. Students will present their recommendations at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 3, at the Center for Town/Craft, 1122 Willis Ave. in Perry. Their presentation, "Iowa's Re-emerging Hometown: Planning for a Multicultural Perry," is free and open to the public.

Quote

"Chicago and Los Angeles are seen as global cities, but you can go to places like Perry and Postville and they're global spaces, too. When our students graduate, they will not just be planning at the local level; they need to have a global perspective."

Gerardo Sandoval,
assistant professor of community and regional planning