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Forget golf communities. A new $80 million development taking shape just outside Cedar Rapids will center around something Iowa does far better – farming. Dows Farm, a 179-acre property bounded by Mount Vernon Road, Dows Road and the Squaw Creek Ridge residential development, is set to become Iowa’s first land trust “agrihood,” a mixed-use community to be built around a working farm that incorporates retail, a variety of housing, recreation and education while leaving 75% of the site open for conservation or agriculture. According to Chad Pelley, vice president of business development at Ahmann Companies, which is partnering with Linn County on the project, agrihoods, or urban farm communities, are an idea whose time has come. Speaking on “The Rise and Benefits of Urban Farms” at the CBJ’s Commercial Real Estate Symposium on March 4, Mr. Pelley hailed the emerging new neighborhoods for promoting health and social interaction, as well as offering competitive and environmental benefits. “And they’re growing in numbers,” said Mr. Pelley, who is also a civil engineer and a small farmer himself. “Dows Farm will be one of the first [in Iowa], but in other communities throughout the U.S., they’re rising in popularity.” The idea of bringing an agrihood to the Corridor began in 2016, when Linn County bought the 179-acre Dows Farm property, as well as an additional 306 acres to expand Squaw Creek Park, for $7.2 million. County leaders shared and refined their vision via open houses and public meetings over a period of years, ultimately hiring Ahmann Companies to develop the property and the Sustainable Iowa Land Trust to manage it. “These are very different than most developments that we’ve seen locally or that we’ve been involved in,” Mr. Pelley said of the project, which could break ground as early as this summer, pending approval from the Cedar Rapids Planning Commission and the Linn County Board of Supervisors, with the first houses being built next spring. Plans for Dows Farm include clustered development on 25% of the property, or about 45 acres, including commercial, retail and a mix of residential from single-family homes to independent living and multi-family units. Another 45 acres will comprise the farm component, and the remaining 90 acres will be given over to conservation in perpetuity with a major walking trail planned to enjoy the scenery. In all, Mr. Pelley said Dows Farm would include a mix of 250 dwelling units and 40,000 square feet of commercial space, including an event center, shops and restaurants. According to the Linn County website, “the Dows Farm Agri-Community will create a unique living, educational and economic experience,” offering residents direct access to trails and open spaces, participation in planting, growing, harvesting, eating and “celebrating food grown on the farm,” and housing options for all ages and income levels. “It’s been exciting to see how this thing evolved,” Mr. Pelley said, crediting Linn County for getting buy in from neighbors and community members, who helped shape the plan. City and county officials have also played a role. Because Dows Farm is within two miles of Cedar Rapids city limits, developers have been working with both staffs. That has occasionally been a challenge, Mr. Pelley said, since the development will not follow typical street and sidewalk conventions, for example. “We’re in untested waters here, however, the success of these [communities] nationally have given us optimism. There appears to be a significant demand,” he added. “I know personally, since being announced that we were part of this team, there’s been an overwhelming amount of reaching out to me about, ‘Hey, when can we get involved? When can we move here? When can we be part of this?’” Mr. Pelley said key features of agricommunities include conservation areas, protecting the farmland footprint, food production facilities, event space, a public education component and farmers markets or businesses like restaurants that utilize produce and products from the nearby farm. Homes are typically clustered, integrating multifamily, “and there’s always a relationship between the farm and the community,” Mr. Pelley said, including a homeowners association that is “symbolic of both [residents and farmers] being on the same team.” “And then there’s other things like trails, edible landscapes – all kinds of different things, because each one of them are unique, but they all generally focus around that relationship between the neighborhood and farm component,” he said. Agrihoods also typically offer educational outreach to the community and serve as a hub for new farmers, new processes and procedures, and innovation. “And certainly, it’s least important really, but a great byproduct is [agricommunities in other states] are seeing a pretty substantial increase in the property values of the homes and real estate that are part of these communities,” Mr. Pelley added. One of the more important reasons for living in an urban farm community, on the other hand, is living close to where food is grown and raised. Mr. Pelley highlighted statistics indicating easy access to fresh healthy food is at near crisis level: About 35% of Americans are overweight or obese, 20% of people struggle to find healthy food to eat due to location or lack of resources, and the average distance between farm and table is 1,500 miles. “People really care about what they’re consuming, but everybody’s busy and becoming more and more busy,” said Mr. Pelley, adding that organic food consumption is growing 14 times faster than any other part of the food market, suggesting that “the demand is higher than ever, and people are caring about what they eat.”