Iowa City grant to improve sustainability in Downtown, Northside Marketplace, Riverfront Crossings

Iowa City is extending the Commercial Energy Efficiency Grant to March to allow businesses and commercial property in the area to apply for a more environmentally friendly business.


Dimia Burrell

The Riverfront Crossing area is seen Coralville on Feb. 18, 2022. The energy efficiency grant is being applied to Downtown Iowa City, Riverfront Crossing, and Northside Marketplace.

Samantha Bielema, News Reporter

Iowa City is hoping to improve energy efficiency in privately owned businesses and properties in Downtown, Northside Marketplace, and the Riverfront Crossings.

The city’s Energy Efficiency Grant provides funding to businesses to make energy-efficient improvements.

Sarah Gardner, Iowa City climate action coordinator, said 75 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the city come from energy use.

In 2021, the same Emergency Efficiency Grant was put into place for industrial companies in the area. ALPLA Group, a plastic fabrication company, and United Natural Foods were two of the industrial companies that received funding from the grant.

“The industrial grant rolled out last year and was very successful,” Gardner said. “We awarded nearly 1 million dollars in grant funds to support about 2 million dollars’ worth of energy efficiency and solar projects.”

The companies have implemented different strategies to become more environmentally friendly, Gardner said. ALPLA has converted to LED lighting, a new chiller, and a heat recovery system on the air compressor plant for plastic formation. ALPLA also provides plastic bottles for Iowa City’s Proctor and Gamble factories, which produce mostly soaps and hygiene products.

“As a global company, we are very committed to sustainability, we are able to really reduce our environmental footprint and educate our people and customers about the implemented solutions in Iowa,” Chivvuan Smith, communications coordinator for ALPLA, said.

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Wendy Ford, Iowa City economic development coordinator, said she saw the improvements that the industrial grant provided for the companies and decided to put it in action for commercial property as well.

Ford said electricity bills and maintenance can be a high cost for small shops and business owners. The grant is mutually beneficial to the environment because of the reduction of emissions and money saved for the business owner, she said.

“This kind of program really represents a win-win for both the city and the businesses that might apply for it,” Gardner said.

Iowa City has a large focus on recycling and advocates for improving landfill waste, Gardner said. Although recycling is necessary, it accounts for less than 10 percent of emissions being released in the city. She said the focus needs to be on electricity and energy use.

Iowa City has many older buildings and structures that weren’t built with energy-efficient systems, Ford said. The grant project is dedicated to renovating those systems and improving the way businesses and commercial properties use electricity.

Wendy Ford said that many businesses move into a building without knowing the state of the electricity use. Making them aware of this usage and the need for energy efficiency can motivate them to apply for this grant program.

Ford said the companies that are awarded the grant issue report on their emission status. Over a three-year period of reports, the data is recorded to see the impact of the grant, she said. The grant’s deadline is March 15, she said.

“By extending the deadline, we are pushing to see more businesses interact and apply for the grant,” she said. “I hope they think of their children and their grandchildren.”